The phone rings, an email notification pops up in the corner of the screen, an SMS beeps, someone's asking me a question, and I'm trying to write!
It might be just me, but when I try multitasking, all I end up doing is starting things, getting distracted and finishing nothing quickly– or not producing my best work.
So after years of trying to become more efficient and productive, trying to get with this whole “multitasking thing”, it has become apparent that I need a new approach…
Are You Stuck in Multitasking Hell?
For a long time I was knee deep in multitasking hell. While I’ve never been good at doing multiple things at once, multitasking became the new “must have” skill for the modern man and woman. Multitasking has become so popular that it's featured on many job requirements, so it's no wonder those who don't thrive in its clasp feel a little despondent.
The concept is simple enough, work on many things at once, dance effortlessly across the tasks completing bits here and there and as and when, then, in one spectacular whirl, miraculously complete all the tasks, one by one, in perfect succession.
Oh dear, I’ve lost concentration, again…
Here's the typical scenario I used to get caught in. I'd be working away on a challenging document. I'd get a few sentences in and up pops an email notification. I ignore that one, but I'm a little distracted. And then another comes in, followed by another. I have to take a look, if not just to appease my inquisitive mind. Okay, it’s just a two-minute reply. Tell you what, I’ll multitask and send a quick reply straight away.
Okay, back to the document. This time I get two paragraphs in and bleep goes my phone with a Facebook notification. I can't continue properly because part of my brain is anxious to see what the notification might be, even though it's probably just someone saying what a nice photo that is, or commenting on someone's cat.
So once again, my concentration is destroyed. And in the meantime, the work isn't finishing itself.
Forget Multitasking & Supercharge Your Concentration
If you want to get in “the flow” and access the “zen zone”, forget multitasking. You need to remove mental and physical distractions and concentrate solely on the task at hand.
Start by switching off your phone, or at least putting it on silent, moving the clock out of sight and turning off the TV and radio. As you remove these distractions, your mind will sink deeper into the “thing” you are doing. You’ll fall into deep focus and become far more productive. You'll lose track of time and have that task done in no time at all.
So next time you're doing something simple like writing a document or responding to a lengthy email, try concentrating solely on that one thing.
Don't check Facebook, or intermittently look at your Twitter feed. If you have to, exit your browser window on your computer and close down any other distracting applications. Don’t think about the next task or other projects you have on your plate; just concern yourself with the task at hand.
If your mind wanders, use a physical anchor to bring your concentration back to centre. You can invent your own anchor, like clicking your fingers, clapping your hands, whistling or clenching your fists a few times. This will act as an interruption that guides your mind back to the task you are working on.
Multitasking might be a skill worth learning, and if you are good at it, great! But the truth is, for me and most people, there is nothing more productive and rewarding than being fully present and totally focused on one piece of work at a time; to be fully immersed and giving your undivided attention in the present.
That feeling you get when you are in the zone and nothing can pull your attention away from your work is undoubtedly when you are able to apply your full potential; it's when you produce your best work.
Ask yourself how often you really enjoy work when multitasking. I'm willing to bet that more often than not, when trying to juggle multiple interruptions, you feel stressed and unable to give your full attention and apply your full potential to one thing.
I guarantee that if you supercharge your concentration by eliminating distraction and using physical anchors to focus attention, you will not only become ultra-productive, but start producing your best work yet.