According to Harvard Business Review blogger Paul Atchley, studies show that multitaskers are less efficient, perhaps by as much as 40%, than they think. He says that it takes an average of 15 minutes – and I’ve read numbers as high as 40 minutes – to reorient oneself to the main task. Wow – 15 minutes! Can you imagine how much time you waste on a daily basis trying to get back to the task at hand?
If you want to break your multitasking habit, here are four tips:
1. Focus on one task at a time. Atchley says our attention starts to wane after 18 minutes. He suggests that if that happens and you switch to a different task, make notes about the first task to make it easier when you go back. I think that if your attention wanes, it might be time for a quick stretch and then quickly re-focus on the same task.
2. Since I mentioned focusing on a task, be sure to divide your project into doable tasks. Set a timer for the task. I find it easier to focus if I have specifically set the time aside.
3. Eliminate distractions. This could be closing the door to your studio, letting the answering machine pick up the calls, stopping the audible tones of your e-mail. What’s key is paying attention – again focus – to your task.
4. Stick with it until it’s done and done right.
And, if you think multi-tasking is only a problem today, here’s a good quote from Lord Chesterton, attributed to a letter to his son in the 1740s:
“There is time enough for everything in the course of the day if you do but one thing at once; but there is not time enough in the year if you will do two things at a time.”
Good luck single-tasking. And, if you have a tip to share, please post on the blog.
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