With so much to do and so few hours in the day, there’s barely enough time for the juggling act of doing several things at once. At work, people can be simultaneously on a conference call, emailing and making notes on a task list. And at home, people often fold laundry while watching TV and Skyping with Mom.
While multi-minding and multi-tasking is done in the name of efficiency, it often means doing many things poorly or not at all. In fact, recent evidence suggests multi-minding or multitasking with unrelated activities can actually impair short-term memory and interfere with mental processing. Since multi-minding has become a way of life, an addiction of sorts, it will take effort to re-train the brain and build true efficiency at work and at home.
Prioritize, prioritize. Large tasks are usually more difficult, require deep critical thinking and analysis, and can seem daunting. Tackle these tasks first, early in the day and early in the week. When hitting a roadblock, try to avoid the temptation to switch to an easier task, and stick with it. It’s often the case that these difficult tasks are a lot less difficult than originally thought.
Forget perfection. When planning the day, be realistic. Set out to achieve around three major goals, but leave enough time and flexibility in daily planning to address last-minute needs or account for unanticipated delays. Instead of letting a minor setback cause stress and crush productivity, focus on solutions and stay motivated on achieving goals.
Clear your space. A cluttered space creates a cluttered mind. Clear out stacks of papers, put rarely used office supplies in drawers, and clear out clutter at home. Maintaining a clean space helps limit distraction and boost concentration.
Learn to say ‘No.’ Consider your schedule, work goals, and priorities before agreeing to take on new tasks. While there’s certainly time for teamwork and collaboration, it shouldn’t be at the expense of getting your work done.
Make personal time. Try to start the day calmly with a daily ritual that clears your mind, like stretching, yoga, or simply enjoying a cup of coffee on the patio. Taking a quick walk outdoors can offer a great midday mental boost and prevent an afternoon slump. Before walking in the door at home, take a few deep breaths to let go of the stress of the day and enjoy the evening ahead.