You’ve probably heard the latest studies that multitasking may not be as productive as people once thought it was. According to an article on Entrepreneur, our brains hone in on distractions. The brain grabs our attention because the distraction signals change and change can signal danger.
David Rock, the co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute states that multitasking drops a person’s IQ. We love the feeling of multitasking, too. Our brains get excited over multitasking, but this is not the most efficient way to work.
Studies have found that doing more than one task at a time splits the brain. In one study in Paris, participants were asked to complete two tasks at the same time. The brain activity divided in half to try to complete both tasks. When a third task was thrown into the mix, participants in the study forgot one of the tasks they’d been asked to perform and made three times as many errors.
The University of Queensland scientists found that in addition to not being as effective at completing multiple tasks at one time, that doing more than one task made the work far less satisfying than when study participants were able to focus on a single goal and complete it to their satisfaction.
However, there is some recent evidence to suggest that multitasking can work when you’ve been trained to do both tasks simultaneously. Still, researchers suggest trying to avoid multitasking when possible.
The moral? The more tasks you are trying to complete at once, the less effective you are at any given task. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to train your brain to stay focused on a single task and avoid the trap of keeping so many different tabs open on your computer screen and in your brain.
Learn to Stay Focused
National Public Radio recently reported on the University of Michigan using an MRI scanner to monitor the brain activity of test subjects doing different tasks. One thing that researcher Daniel Weissman (a neuroscientist) found was that when the subjects went from one task to the next, that the brain had to pause and gather up what it knew of that task before moving on to the action that needed to be taken.
This could mean that we aren’t really multitasking even when we think we are. Instead, we are just shifting rapidly from one task to the next, but in the time it takes our brains to process the task, we have lost precious seconds of time.
Learning to stay focused can mean the difference between meeting important deadlines and missing them. Here are many ways you stay focused and improve your productivity.
Use a Checklist
One thing that is helpful for many people is to create a checklist of things that need to be completed. When it comes to your daily routine, there are some task that need to be completed regularly. Here are a few of the things you should add to your list:
- Meeting with prospects
- Respond to comments
- Publish new posts
- Reply emails
- Networking on social media
Get Creative Tasks Done First
In the Entrepreneur article mentioned above, David Rock also says that people should complete the most creative tasks first. Most people turn to easy tasks that don’t require a lot of thought, but this is backwards. Instead, try to work on the tasks that require a lot of thought and creativity first. Then, if you’re tired and drained, you can work on the mindless tasks and not lose much productivity.
Figure Out Your Most Creative Time
Some people are extremely creative in the mornings. Some are extremely creative at night. Figure out what time of day you are most productive and creative and make sure you set aside a block of time to work when you’re at your best.
If you’ve been multitasking for a while, you’ve trained your brain not to focus on a single task. It can take practice to learn to focus on one task at a time. Spend five minutes at a time focusing on one thing at first. Increase that time slowly.
One of the main reasons we have trouble focusing is that there are so many distractions in our lives. The cell phone rings, Facebook messenger dings and you are trying to finish a blog post. You may even have the television or music on in the background and your brain is trying to focus on that as well. Remove all those distractions and focus on one thing at a time instead.
Find a Place
Sometimes, learning how to focus means finding the best place to work distraction free. This might be a home office, a quiet room in your home or even the local coffee shop. Some entrepreneurs choose to rent office space for at least a couple days a week, so they can truly focus on getting work done without the many distractions of working from home.
Juggle the Issues that Crop Up
In the modern era, the environment seems to invite multitasking and there are so many issues that crop up that have to be handled. For example, you may need to attend a meeting with developers, at the same time, your phone is ringing on the other side.
The key to sticking to a schedule is to keep a to-do list at hand and to not deviate from it except for the most severe of emergencies. Remember the 80/20 rules?
Train yourself to focus and be more productive isn’t necessarily easy, but the productivity you’ll discover will make it worth your time and effort.