Brain Noise & Multitasking
I recently watched a performance of Queen performing live at Live Aid: Wembley London, 1985. Freddie Mercury had the audience in the palm of his hand. He had the attention of everyone in that audience. It was interesting watching all of their arms up in the air fist pumping, clapping in time and him coercing the audience to sing along. There was no doubt that he had the attention of everyone and they were 100% focused on him.
If you had that same concept right now, a one-off concert, not a band on tour, there's no doubt that everybody would have their devices out and be recording Freddie Mercury. Maybe not watching him directly, but watching them through their device. It made me realize how much we switch from one thing to another more so than we have ever done before and whether or not that it's necessarily making us more productive.
Multitasking is one way that we deal with so much stuff that's happening in our life. There's actually apart of our brain called Brodmann's Area 10, part of the Prefrontal Cortex. It’s apparently responsible for the brain's capacity to switch from one task to another. We may well think that we're giving each task equal attention in that same time, yet our sophisticated brain is switching from one task to another rather seamlessly. We're not aware that we're doing it. Yet doesn't necessarily make us more productive.
Apparently, this generation is starting to use this part of the brain more and more and using it more effectively than previous generations. For example, switching from Instagram to homework, or computer to their phone, simply switching from one thing to another.
It’s certainly possible to Facebook and have a conversation, watch television and send emails. It’s even legal to talk on the phone and drive, for goodness sake (as long as you’re not holding it). Our brain can do things automatically, like fold washing and listen to podcasts, or drive and talk, with. However, when something out of the ordinary happens, when something changes without warning, it means that our brain has to refocus and rethink and we very consciously switch tasks. If we are driving, we can't keep talking to that person if we need to respond quickly.
This is why texting while driving is far more dangerous than drink driving.
Research is showing that if we try and multitask, thinking that we're saving time, it would take us two to three times longer to complete the task by doing it in combination with a range of other tasks, rather than just doing that task alone.
So think about how often emails interrupt our day, how much phones calls interrupt our day, and how that can actually slow us down.
Tips to Quieten that Busy Mind
Ensure that you have some uninterrupted time. See if you can find a time where you will not be interrupted by clients, by your colleagues, by your family, and focus on one thing at one time. Close the door and/or put on some headphones with some focus music.
Make sure that you don't have the phone alerts that are going to go off. You're not going to have knocks at the door. The phone is not going to ring. Emails aren't going to pop-up, and focus on one task. Just one.
Set Ground Rules with Others
I worked in a busy head office when I was working for a large business. One of the rules that they set, which worked really effectively, was that every Tuesday and Thursday morning was uninterrupted time. What that meant was that you couldn't ring your colleagues during that time. You weren't to email your colleagues and expect a response in that time. And you weren't to arrange meetings in the office or meetings with your colleague during that time to guarantee that it was uninterrupted focus time.
This was particularly useful for people that really had to spend focused uninterrupted time on complex things like reports and analysis, review or really brain heavy activity.
Set the “Do Not Disturb”.
Putting on headphones and listening to music is one way to block out a lot of the direct distraction and stimulation; listening in on conversations, hearing other things going on.
You can also let your colleagues know that there's certain signals or signs of when you wish to be uninterrupted. Or even ask people if you can be uninterrupted for a certain period of time so that you can focus on a particular task.
For example, I know that some people might close their door. Some people might put on headphones. Some people have even put on hats. Or put up signs, "Please don't interrupt me until 10:00 am for example.
Some people have autoresponders on their emails that say, "I only check my emails from 10:00 till 12:00, and 2:00 till 4:00." So that you know that outside of those times people will not responding to emails.
Would you like to better manage your time?
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About the Author:
Barbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a time management & stress management enthusiast based in Alice Springs, Australia. She has spent over 20 years working in time precious and stressful industries such as film, hospitality and marketing. She has always had a burning passion for creating order and making sense of things. She is sought after like a beacon in a sea of chaos to provide professional development in the business environment through workshop training, coaching, mentoring, online training programmes, webinars and as a guest speaker around Australia. Her professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care, Universities, Health Services and Cruise Ships. Follow Barbara on Twitter @barbclifford.