Thursday, 05 November 2015 15:32

What shall I do next?

The question, ‘What super power would you most like to possess’ can be answered quite easily by most of us with the words, ’The ability to do lots of things at once’.

Multi-tasking is now regarded as an essential survival skill, like reading or counting. Shopping on the internet while talking to an overseas friend as you stir supper and watch the progress of a movie download is a way to make inroads into the plethora of things that all need to be done. Yet some of the downsides of multi-tasking are becoming apparent.

Talking on a phone, whether it is hand held or hands free, is as dangerous as driving while drunk, in terms of one’s ability to notice and respond to outside events. Research shows that people can successfully juggle multiple tasks but are unable to remember much about them or learn from what they have experienced. The common practice of answering mail during meetings comes to mind.

A recent article in the Financial Times (ft.com/multitasking) offers various ways of thinking about multi-tasking.

You can multi-task by genuinely doing two things at once, where one of the activities requires no conscious thought. There are fewer examples than you might think. Singing to your own guitar playing would be one, but only if you are practiced at both. Rapid task switching, which has been shown to be both inefficient and unproductive, is a form of multi- tasking. You’re doing it when you switch between talking on the phone, writing a mail, and answering queries from passing staff.

A third definition of multi-tasking relates to the common condition of having more urgent and important things to do at any given time than are mentally or physically possible. It’s the reason people are stressed out, burnt out, and determined if they can, to get out. For those of us who can’t, there is one piece of advice that could be useful.

Think of each unfinished task as an ‘open loop’ that keeps spinning until you complete it and close the loop. The open loops create the nagging voices in your head. So for every task to which you are committed write down the next thing you can do. Stick to your plan and review it frequently so you keep track of your progress and gain a sense of achievement as you see steady progress. You’ll quieten the nagging voices and drop your stress level.

What can you lose? Try it.

Additional Info

  • Topic: Executive Coaching, Self Development

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.