Multitasking Businesswoman In Office

People are often viewed to be more productive when they multitask -- but research shows differently. 

Are you good at multitasking? Good. Me neither.

For those of you who answered “Yes,” I am envious. Really? Do you accomplish more when you multitask? Research shows that only 2% of people can multitask effectively.

I just experienced an event that proves my point. My daughter was driving back to her office from a courthouse downtown. She figured, “Hey, Mom is out of school so I can call her on my drive.” We got talking about her planned summer vacation to come and see us and the dates I should fly out to be at her house.

After about 20 minutes she said, “Hey, I just missed my exit.” We had to laugh. Not only did she miss her exit, she found no easy turnaround or other exit for several minutes. She blamed missing her exit on our conversation; thinking about too many things at once.

When I am focused, I am really there. Focus is the only way I am able to do anything well. I don’t even try to multitask anymore. In fact, I try to avoid it. I don’t want to goof anything up.

Here is only one clip (of many) from my own experience. Several years ago, when most of our kids still lived at home, I looked up from my computer for a quick mental break; just in time to hear one son say to a daughter, “You just gotta ask Mom when she’s on the computer. That way she will say yes and really have no idea what you are asking.”

What? I started taking classes when I had two kids in high school and two in junior high, partially so I would be studying in their space at the same time they were. We put three computers in the extended area of our kitchen. No computers were allowed in other rooms and no phones had internet at that time. I wanted to keep tabs on the kids and maybe be a part of their casual conversations. But I had just been exposed! I learned I really had no idea what was going on all around me when I was focused on my computer, or cooking or anything else probably.

I know, women are supposed to be good at multitasking, but research shows differently. “Multitasking leads to a 40% drop in productivity” and a 10% drop in IQ! (http://bit.ly/2Mb5TvG)

What?! My IQ is dropping if I multitask? I can’t afford that! I have to keep up with ever-changing technology and communication just to keep in touch with my work and with my grandkids. My brain has to be sharp. What do I do?

I’m sure there are many answers to this question, but here is a short list of things I’ve tried that help me:

  • Turn off my electronic devices when not in use or at least turn off the notifications.
  • Keep fewer tabs open on my computer.
  • Exercise with focus and without earbuds or a TV. I know this makes exercising more work, but I think it also makes the exercise more effective. (Think Yoga.)
  • Go fishing. My husband does this. Being out in nature without distractions seems to rejuvenate him tremendously. So go fishing, or maybe just take a walk without your phone. I do the take-a-walk thing. If someone will come with me, it’s excellent communication time.
  • Dedicate a set time to do your prime thinking and don’t allow distractions.
  • Keep a handwritten journal.
  • Look into someone’s eyes when you are conversing with them.
  • Be present when you eat a good meal. No reading material. You will love the meal even more.
  • Enjoy silence for a little while every day.
  • Understand that being busy and multitasking isn’t “all that.”
  • Give yourself permission to do one thing at a time.

“Try it. You’ll like it.” Just see what happens over the next week. You may be more productive than you think.

Jennifer Sant is a Utah high school teacher, energy wellness coach mother of five and currently grandmother of 10. Contact her at jennifersant801@gmail.com.