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By Meaghan Marshall, Feb 21 2015 11:49AM


“Outstanding organisational and planning skills with ability to multitask effectively”


The above statement is from a job advertisement I read earlier today. I see variations of this statement listed on job ads or in position descriptions regularly.


This always puzzles me since we know that multitasking does not make us more productive. Multitasking is cognitively exhausting. It has been scientifically demonstrated that the brain cannot effectively switch between tasks. When our mind is forced to continuously reorient in order to process new information the quality of our work suffers and we make more mistakes.


Multitasking is out, and Monotasking is in! Employers looking for multitasking employees aren’t the only ones that haven’t caught up. Many of us multitask, and often we are not even aware we are doing it. In today’s world, we are always ‘on’ and constantly connected. We have emails, facebook, twitter, mobile phones and we are continually paying attention so we don’t miss anything.


If you want to be truly productive however you need to stop multitasking and embrace monotasking. Monotasking is working smarter and will allow you to get more done.


This is how you do it:


⇨ Schedule Email Time

Email is a huge distraction. If you have email notifications on then you should turn them off now. This will help you avoid the temptation to check your inbox as soon as you get new mail. You should instead schedule a time for checking your emails and stick to these times. Without the distraction of emails you will be better able to focus on your task. If you are tempted to check your email, stop, take a deep breath and resist the urge. Try to focus your attention back to the job at hand.


⇨ Take a Timeout

Give yourself time to recharge. You will be more productive if you step away and take a short break. Go for a walk, have a cup of tea, look out the window. Clear your head so you can focus on your task. This is especially helpful if you are feeling overwhelmed and find yourself multitasking, stop and take a timeout. It only takes a few minutes to refocus your mind.


⇨ Isolate Yourself & Remove Distractions

Try to work without any distractions for a few hours. This will mean turning off your phone, closing your email and finding a quiet room to avoid distractions. Identify your biggest distraction and multitasking habits and remove. If you’re trying to give up chocolate you are not going to leave a block sitting beside you all day, instead you will remove the temptation and the need to rely on willpower. You should approach your habit of checking emails or your phone the same way. Remove the distractions so you don’t have to fight temptation.


⇨ Block Your Time

Plan your day in blocks of time. Allocate one activity or task to a block of time and then group similar tasks together. Set specific times for returning calls, answering emails, doing research, attending meetings. By focusing on completing one task at a time you will be more productive.


⇨ Write Ideas & New Tasks Down

Don’t stop what you are doing every time you have a new idea or a new item to action arrives in your inbox. Create a list instead. Write down the thought and then return to your original task. When you have completed your current task you can then work your way through the list focusing on one task at a time.


⇨ Look After Yourself

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, tired or stressed with a big workload then you are more likely to slip back into old habits and try to multitask in order to feel like you’re making progress and getting ahead. Aim to get enough sleep, exercise and eat well. If you are well rested you will be better equipped to fight distractions and exercise will improve brain function and focus.


External Content:


Don’t Multitask: Your Brain Will Thank You



Related Content:


When Being Organized Is Not Productive


Stress Management


Tips For An Effective Meeting


How to Say No at Work


By Meaghan Marshall, Feb 9 2015 11:50AM



When I began this post I intended to write a list of tips for organisation and time management. You know the article I mean, “10 Habits of Organised People” or maybe “100 Tips to Get Your Life Organised”

But then I started to think about our individual differences and remembered that not everyone has a preference for structure. If you are familiar with Myers-Briggs personality types you will know this preference can be defined as either a Judging (J) or Perceiving (P) preference. Judgers prefer a structured approach, plans, and to organise their work to achieve goals and results in a predictable way. Perceivers however have a preference for more flexibility. Structure to a Perceiver will feel limiting rather than enabling. I am a J, so naturally, my first thought was a list to achieve greater organisation. Once I started thinking about it however, I realised maybe I need to look at this from the other preference.


Are there advantages of being less structured?


The Messy Desk & Creativity


I am J preference; I like to have things decided, I have too many lists, I dislike procrastination and I am never rushing to meet a deadline, however I do have to confess my desk is a mess. I do feel better about this now though since not only did Albert Einstein apparently have a messy workspace but also according to researchers at the University of Minnesota disorder produces creativity. According to the experiment, environments that are orderly lead people toward tradition and convention where disorder more towards creativity. It was concluded from the study that disorderly environments inspire breaking free of tradition which can produce fresh ideas and new approaches.


So having an organised desk is not always best. If you need to generate creative ideas or solve a problem that needs an innovative unconventional approach it might be best to let the clutter accumulate to inspire an ingenious breakthrough.


The flip side is also true so if you are more inclined towards mess and you need to approach a task with discipline and focus. A clean-up might help you with more conventional and conscientious concentration.


Flexibility


One of the advantages I can see of not having a set plan or decisions in concrete, is greater flexibility. Without the need for order and predictability you have the freedom to be more spontaneous and open to opportunities.


Sometimes it is possible that focusing on being organised and carefully following the rules means that we are too rigid. So committed to achieving a deadline or to a decision already made, we miss new, pertinent information. Following too closely to a schedule can mean we miss out on new and exciting opportunities.


Rather than being ultra-organised to the point of inflexible, we need to be prepared and relaxed enough to find a balance between having a plan and being able to improvise as needed. We need to be open to new information and new opportunities in order to be truly productive.


When Being Organised Takes up Time


How much time do you spend on being organised before it becomes counterproductive? Engaging in organisation has opportunity costs. The time you spent on cleaning your desk, writing an elaborate colour coded to-do list is time you could spend on another task. So what is more important? Clearing away previous work off my desk or using that time on my next project?


Lorie Marrero a Professional Organizer and creator of The Clutter Diet talks about this here, she suggests that you need to look at Return on Investment (ROI). Which in the case of organisation means; Is the time, money, or energy you are investing in the process going to pay off by offering you more time, money, and energy in return? If the answer is no, you need to evaluate if the effort is worth it. Lorie works on the principle of “Good Enough” which means that you find the level of organization that is appropriate to provide a return that is worth the investment.


It seems to me that there are times when too much organisation isn’t productive and there are advantages of being less structured. Moderate disorganisation is probably acceptable and certainly there is no need to strive for perfect order all the time.






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