This morning I was reading a post written by Selena from This Contented Life. It was an entry from her Life Lessons series titled Do One Thing at a Time. Her post really got me thinking about the downfalls of scattering our energies. Not only does multitasking cause unneeded stress in our lives, it also decreases the quality of our output.
Sometimes multitasking is unavoidable. For example, when I’m working and my boss sends me an email, I know I have to stop working, read and respond to the email. I work from home four out of five days each week, so responding promptly to emails lets my employer know that I hear her. It’s how we keep the conversation flowing on the days I’m not in the office.
I notice the steepest decrease in the quality of my work when I’m expected to be making progress on multiple projects simultaneously. I waste oodles of time opening the documents and files I need to work on, and then trying to remember where I last left off before I can begin working on the project again. Not to mention having multiple unfinished projects going makes me feel anxious.
Humans can’t do more than one thing at the same time while giving each task 100%. It’s just simple math.
Have you ever tried to talk on the phone while typing an email? What happens? You either miss some of what the person on the line has said, or you mistype the email message. You have to tune out some of the sensory data you receive in order to focus your attention.
I know some people may argue with this theory and say they can listen to music and/or watch television while working or writing. If you’re one of these individuals, I would ask you to try a little experiment.
The next time your watching TV while typing an email, try recalling both what was said on the TV and what you wrote in the email afterward. Can you do it? Did either area of focus suffer (fully absorbing and enjoying the program you were watching, or the quality and/or coherency of your email)? Is it comfortable for you to do this?
I truly believe that reducing the amount of sensory “noise” we’re exposed to will allow us to create more serenity in our lives — and set the stage for each of us to make higher quality contributions.
Do you feel that dividing your attention creates more, or less stress in your life?