Manage Your Multi-tasking Habit
The other day, I rushed off to power-yoga class for a much-needed break from my never-ending to-do list. As if the universe was sending me a karmic message, the instructor told us to “be in the moment” instead of worrying about what happened before we came to class, or what will happen when it was over. It’s a novel idea, but could I actually apply it my life off the mat? Was it really possible to do only one thing at a time?
Multitasking has become a necessity in everyday life. To eliminate it completely, I needed to find out where it began. The term “multitasking” was created for computers, not humans, enabling its users to surf the Web for summer tanks, print reports, and download the latest Adele single all at the same time. This is brilliant for my Mac, but not so great for my declining ability to focus. Eventually I was able to break my multitasking habit. Here are some ways you can too:
Learn the difference between healthy and harmful multitasking. Talking on your cell phone while doing anything else is never a good idea. Catching up on the latest New Yorker while waiting for your tardy dentist is a healthy use of time.
Be realistic about how long it takes to complete a project. Determine what your big tasks are and schedule enough time to work on them without interruption. Also, avoid booking back-to-back appointments whenever possible. Instead, build an additional 20 minutes before and after your task into your schedule. That will give you time to return a call or two, or deal with any crises that may arise.
Don’t be a serial voice-mail checker. Listen to your voice-mail only when you actually have time to sit down and return calls. Doing so will save time and prevent you from revisiting the same message continuously. Follow the same discipline with e-mail. Though it may be tempting to drop whatever you’re doing every time your computer signals that you have a new message, set aside certain times in your day for replying to e-mails. And if you have to concentrate for an extended period of time, check your e-mail once, then shut down your e-mail application. Having it up will only distract you when you’re feeling stumped or tired.
Start small. If you need to redo your entire filing system, do a drawer a day. You’ll get more done when you dedicate time to the project each day instead of trying to do everything at once. Like your multitasking computer, you too need proper maintenance and care to prevent crashing.