Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Stop Juggling: Why Multi-tasking isn’t Productive

This article originally appeared in the May issue of Writer2Writer under the title, Multi-tasking - Tips and Tricks to Make it Work!. The above title is closer to capturing my feelings about multi-tasking.

When I was younger, I thought multi-tasking was great. Even though I made some mistakes here or there, I felt like I was accomplishing a lot more. Consider it wisdom or more experience, but now that I'm older, I've learned to appreciate focusing on one thing at a time and doing it well.

The article below will give you some tips on how to stop multi-tasking so that you can truly be more productive!

Stop Juggling: Why Multi-tasking isn’t Productive

Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.

If you’ve spent any time in the corporate world, then you’re familiar with the term multi-tasking. Employers mention it in their job posts and applicants proudly put “ability to multi-task” on their resumes.

Multi-tasking is a good thing, right?

Well, maybe not.

A University of Michigan study found that participants took longer to complete math problems if they tried to switch back and forth among tasks. In addition, Russell Poldrack, a UCLA associate professor of psychology and co-author of a study on multi-tasking says that, “Multi-tasking adversely affects how you learn," because “…that learning is less flexible and more specialized, so you cannot retrieve the information as easily.”

Author and management expert Dave Crenshaw even wrote a book to help business leaders and employees recognize why multi-tasking is counterproductive.

How can you stop multi-tasking in a world where cell phones, PDA’s and laptops keep you connected 24/7?

Here are some tips to get you started.

Write a to-do list

As a writer, you probably have three projects you’re working on and several more you want to work on. Problem is, when your mind is focusing on everything all at once instead of only on the task at hand, you’re more apt to make mistakes. Write a to-do list, prioritize it, and stick to it. Just make sure you leave a little bit of wiggle room in case something urgent comes up.

Keep a Pad Close By

Oftentimes when you’re working, an idea will pop into your head and you’re afraid to forget it, so you wander off to focus on that idea or perform a task you’ve forgotten.

Don’t do it! Write it down and get back to what you were doing. Not only will you keep your focus on the task at hand, think of how great it will feel when you check something off your to-do list.

Stop Distractions

Email, cell phones, and the Internet have made life easier in many ways. But technology has its downside. It’s so tempting to just take a minute to click over and check the daily news or your email. But it never takes only a minute, and before you know it, all your writing time has been spent on anything but writing.

When I work on deadline I don’t answer my phone. I keep it by my desk in case of emergencies, but unless it is one of the girls’ schools, I let the answering machine pick it up.

Set a time each day to check email and return phone messages and browse the Internet on a scheduled break.

Don’t Allow Interruptions

Family and friends need to be reminded that you’re working and not available. Constantly reinforce your work schedule with them and don’t allow them to interrupt you for anything that isn’t an emergency.

Make Time for Others

The flip side of not allowing interruptions is to train yourself not to work during family time. This is something I especially struggle with. Sometimes that means packing up a picnic lunch and taking my girls to the park so that I’m not tempted to do any work.

Keep family time sacred. Don’t return phone messages. Don’t check your email. Don’t hibernate in your office for an hour. Let your family know how important they are to you and they’ll be more respectful of your writing time.

Make Time for Yourself

The world might be going 24/7, but you can’t. You need down time and you need to get enough sleep so that you can stay healthy and productive.

Even if it’s just fifteen minutes a day, allot some time in your schedule to do whatever it is you want to do. Take a walk. Take a bath. Take a power nap. Whatever it is, do it.

Try to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night. While it might seem like you’re doing yourself a favor if you stay up late to complete what you’re working on, people who do not get enough sleep are more prone to making mistakes and forgetting things, not to mention the adverse health affects caused by sleep deprivation.

Don’t confuse being busy with being productive. Multi-tasking is not the way to balance your family life and your career. It could result in costly mistakes. Creating to-do lists, writing things down instead of trying to focus on multiple things at a time, stopping distractions and interruptions, and making time for others and for yourself will give you a better balance between your personal life and your career.

And you’ll be more productive too!

About the Author: Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelancer who specializes in helping writers increase productivity through time management and organization. She has also written articles on everyday life in the 1800’s, gardening, parenting, and women’s health issues. Cheryl is also a book reviewer, blogger, and a virtual book tour coordinator for Pump Up Your Book Promotion. You can find out more about Cheryl by visiting her website at

1 comment:

Rebecca Camarena said...

I don't think that I have ever stopped by this blog, but I found myself really enjoying it. Thanks for the informative posts.