UPDATED 2/23/2019 Ever feel like you are on the road to nowhere? You’re always busy, with an endless To Do list, but yet never seem to be progressing? Plus, the list keeps getting longer no matter what you do! Multitasking, endless to-do lists, and an overcommitted life can easily lead to stress and burnout. Slow down for a minute! There are ways to find happiness in a busy world!
Why multitasking doesn’t work
The results are in, and they are crystal clear. Multitasking does NOT work. Our brains are simply not wired to do as many things simultaneously as we talk ourselves into thinking are possible.
Our brains can only hold so much information. Technology is not to blame for the reason we multitask so often. Scientists believe this multitasking urge dates back to prehistoric days. Back then, the ability to observe everything meant the difference between life and death. Today, it’s just a distraction.
Sure, we can go through the motions of being on a conference call, updating our To Do list, working on the report that’s due next week, and planning a vacation from the madness of it all, but at the end of the day, how effective have we been and were we even conscious as we moved through the day? Or did we shuffle through in a fog, not even noticing if it was raining or sunny and certainly not remembering the details of our conversations with colleagues, family, or friends or even the route home from work?
Well, 10 years from now most of us will wish we had paid attention more and had been present as life was whizzing by faster and faster. Guess what? You can take action right NOW and not have regrets later about all the things you missed by not focusing on what you are doing when you are doing it.
If you feel overwhelmed with life, these 4 strategies will help you boost your productivity:
- Do one thing at a time.
- Focus on your “one thing.”
- Take time to do nothing.
- Listen more and talk less.
They may require an adjustment to your life, but they’re working for successful people and they can make a difference in your life too.
Do one thing at a time
Psychology research shows it’s best to do one thing at a time. We think we can do more, but Psychology Today points out that constantly switching between tasks can lead up to a 40% loss of productivity. It’s because you’re not focused, you make more mistakes, and it takes longer to complete tasks when you’re doing more than one at a time.
Don’t believe it? Click here to take a simple test showing how it takes more time to multitask rather than do one thing at a time.
Need a little more inspiration? Paolo Cardini is a product designer who gives a short (less than 3 minutes) but inspiring talk encouraging you to try monotasking in a multitasking world. When you multitask, you miss out. When you monotask, you’ll see the world in a different light.
Let’s face it; it’s hard to do! Find ways to make technology work for you. Turn off electronic notifications during the day. Put your phone on silent, so it doesn’t ding every time you have a new alert. During the day, batch your work, so you’re focused on one task at a time and accomplishing more.
Focus on the present moment rather than the past or future. This is the practice of mindfulness! You can do this at your desk when you feel the day slipping away from you!
Focus on your “One Thing.”
What drives your life? It’s probably hard to answer that because in this modern world we try to be lots of things to lots of different people. We’re used to multitasking, and for some people, they think that’s the only way to get things done.
Let me turn your world on its head for a minute and encourage you to focus on just one thing as Gary Keller writes. You may not know him, but you know his name. He’s a best-selling author and the founder and chairman of Keller Williams Realty.
“You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.”
~ Gary Keller
His book empowers you to have a one-track mind and ignore all the distractions in today’s modern world so you can discover your one thing that delivers results!
Take time to do nothing
What would happen if you just took a breath and did “nothing”? Because “doing nothing” is quite a lot. Have you ever noticed how often you get more done by just trying to do less?
Have you turned into the proverbial smoke but no real fire? Well, maybe just maybe, too much of your time is being spent doing rather than being. Are you checking off boxes but not getting a sense of satisfaction or even a feeling of accomplishment? What if you considered how great it is to be who you are? You don’t have to be thin or rich or retired or a superhero, although all those scenarios might indeed be fabulous.
We have a natural inclination to want to get as much done as possible in the least amount of time possible. Also, we grossly overestimate what is realistic given the number of hours there are in a day and how busy our lives usually are. We convince ourselves if we get the 10,000 things on our list behind us, then we’ll have the time to relax and take a break. If you’ve figured out a way to make this happen and not burn out in the process, please let the rest of us in on your secret!
How about giving something different a try? You can get started by learning “The Art of Stillness” from travel writer, Pico Iyer. A man who has traveled the world, experienced many cultures, and seen countless landmarks talks of how his most happy times are doing nothing. It helps him make sense of the future and past and helps him find happiness.
He compares it to a piece of music. When the music pauses or rests, that’s when you realize the beauty of it.
You can put this into practice in your daily life. Take technology timeouts at home. Put your cell phone down when you get home at night. Focus on the moment, rather than the past and future. Be mindful of what’s happening around you, and you’ll find you’re less distracted and happier.
When was the last time you did nothing?
“In an age of acceleration, nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing is so luxurious as paying attention. In an age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still,” Iyer said.
Think about this when you’re planning your day and even your next vacation. While Hawaii and Europe sound amazing, Iyer points out sometimes going nowhere is more refreshing, calming, and rejuvenating.
Listen more talk less
Yack, yack, yack. Blah, blah, blah.
We are bombarded by lots of people talking all the time. At the same time, we are often only listening just long enough to counter whatever someone else may be saying. We see their mouths moving, but are we processing what they are verbalizing?
And…are they sharing anything of substance and are we hearing what they are articulating? How often do you find yourself not being able to remember the main points that were made? Do you walk away with only a vague memory of the interaction?
That’s because we listen to only 125-250 words per minute yet think at a rate of 1000-3000 words a minute. Check out this fascinating infographic about how we communicate, and how little spoken words mean to us. We communicate more through facial expressions than spoken words.
So, imagine the difference listening would make rather than talking. You might live in the present and experience more of what’s happening around you.
Want to know how often you actually listen? Take this listening quiz by “Inspire Your People” to get your results.
Sound expert, Julian Treasure, says we retain just 25% of what we hear! In this Ted Talk, he shares five ways to listen better. These include:
- Enjoying silence for 3 minutes a day
- Identifying a number of sounds in a loud place
- Savoring basic sounds like the hum of the washing machine. Treasure calls this the “hidden choir.”
- Moving your listening position
- RASA – Receive, Appreciate, Summarize, Ask
Want to learn more? Listen to his talk!
Are you ready to stop multitasking? Start by being intentional about what you’re doing. How does it make you feel?