Americans have become chronic multi-taskers. Employees are asked to get more done in less time and with less help these days. This is nothing new; for decades companies have been getting more and more lean with their teams. It’s time to stop multitasking.
Technology makes it worse. Since the advent of social media, attention spans have dropped. A recent study out of Denmark suggests that our attention spans are narrowing as a result of the massive amounts of information we receive thanks to social media sites and 24/7 news cycles. For example, in 2013 a global trend on Twitter lasted 17.5 hours. By 2016, that number had dropped to 11.9 hours.
Another recent study showed that men who multitask during cognitive assignments had a 15 point drop in IQ, making them only as smart as the average eight year old. Overall, the study showed that multitasking impacted participants as much as staying up all night.
Multitasking also has a negative impact on the brain’s efficiency. It takes time for the brain to shift gears every time someone switches between tasks. It can take twenty minutes for the brain to get reingaged when someone is interrupted at a task.
In a world where the cult of busy-ness reigns supreme, it can be a radical act to slow down. But what if by slowing down, you could get more done? It may seem like an impossible thing, but it can be done.
Start by time chunking: focus for 25 minutes on one task before moving on to the next. For larger projects, set aside 50 minutes to work “heads down” then take a 10 minute break. 50 minutes is the maximum amount of time someone can focus on one task without a break, unless they’ve entered the “flow state.”
Email is one of the biggest time-wasters at work. Studies show that the average professional spends 23% of their time on email. A UC Irvine team studied an office team, then cut them off of email for five days. They found that employees were less stressed, focused on tasks longer, and worked more efficiently. Commit to checking email only at certain times, say three times a day.
If you work around other people, you’ll need to re-train them so they don’t interrupt you. Have a code: a sign or something that gives them a visual signal that you’re not to be interrupted. Some people use big headphones, or a tent sign that says “focus time.”
Single-tasking as a team can improve communication, make the team more productive, and improve the quality of work. If everyone on the team is multitasking, they’ll be too distracted to deliver their best work. Set aside time each day for everyone to be heads down focused on the same project and see what happens to productivity.
Johanna Lyman is the Founder and CEO of NextGen Orgs. She is a Leadership Consultant and Executive Coach with fifteen years of experience in implementing organization wide change strategies for both Fortune 500 companies and Small Business Owners.
At NextGen Orgs, they use a combination of unique delivery methods and processes that crack the code on establishing lasting organizational behavior changes in a relatively short period of time. Their proprietary and evolutionary system can eliminate months of frustration often associated with developing strong leadership and building a cohesive, collaborative team.
From strategic business design, to culture development and leadership training, their methods can help your company become a truly great place to work.
Johanna is a professional speaker, available to speak on a variety of topics related to culture, communication, innovation, and leadership skills. She is the Board President for the Bay Area Chapter of Conscious Capitalism and is deeply versed in how to help businesses be a force for good in the world. Learn more (URL: https://www.nextgenorgs.com/about/). Contact Johanna at email@example.com