“Squirrel!” The Distraction of Multitasking

 Article  Comments Off on “Squirrel!” The Distraction of Multitasking
Feb 042015
 

Did you see the cartoon feature film, “Up!”? The dogs in it are able to talk as a result of a special collar Squirrel!that translates their thoughts into words. But the dogs get distracted very easily, especially by squirrels. Every time they think they see one, they say, “Squirrel!” and stop what they’re doing to verify whether one is present or not.

For us, multitasking is something similar. We think that it’s efficient, and we get more done, but really, it’s just satisfying our longing for something new. Our brains get a jolt of pleasure when we are able to switch from what we were doing to check email, read a text or answer a call.

We’re sidetracked from what our original task, and we leave it for a while. After we’ve dealt with the distraction, we return to the task. But it takes precious time and energy to get refocused. Efficiency, creativity, productivity and performance all suffer. Also, it’s exhausting and we can’t think as clearly when multitask.

So the next time you’re tempted to check your email when you’re in the middle of a project, remind yourself that it’s a “squirrel,” and stay focused. Your brain will thank you.

~ Linda-Ann Stewart

Are We Losing Our Ability to Concentrate?

 Article, Inspiration  Comments Off on Are We Losing Our Ability to Concentrate?
Jan 072015
 

According to Daniel Goleman’s book, Concentrating on Chess GameFocus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, due to our obsession with multitasking, the internet, social media and cell phones, we’re losing our ability to concentrate. When we constantly check our email, read tweets, or play an online game, we get a jolt of adrenaline. It feels good every time we do and it lights up our brain’s reward circuits. We can’t stay focused on one thing too long or we get itchy for another rush. But it also undermines the ability to focus for any length of time.

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence also says that the good news is that within a short time of slowing down and not jumping from one thing to another, we regain the ability to pay attention. Our focus and concentration improves within a couple of weeks. When we run from one activity to another, we train ourselves to do more of it. We’re training ourselves to be ADD. But the same is true when we let go of the obsessive need for stimulation. As we break the addiction, we train our minds to focus for longer periods of time.

To accomplish more, reduce stress, and be calmer, we need to reduce the number of times we check our email or cell phone. Within a couple of weeks, notice the difference. We’ll get more done, be healthier, feel better and be able to focus on a chess game or reading a book.

~ Linda-Ann Stewart

Jul 302014
 

In today’s frantic world, most of us multitask. We answer email while we’re talking on our phones, either juggling-multitaskingfor business or pleasure, while we’re also working on a project. All of this makes for a stressful existence.

When you’re stressed, you can’t be resourceful or creative. Which means you can’t escape the hamster cage of just doing what’s right in front of you to innovate and achieve your goals.

There are times when multitasking is necessary in our society and in business. Sometimes we have a lot of decisions and details that need to be addressed all at the same time. But multitasking isn’t a good habit to develop for the long term.

Don’t confuse productivity with busyness. Many people think that because they’re multitasking, they’re getting a lot done. Generally, that’s a false belief. Studies show that a person is 40% less productive with multitasking than when they focus on one thing at a time.

When someone is continually juggling a lot of balls, and handling a lot of tasks at once, they feel good and effective. Instead, they’re actually keeping themselves distracted from what they truly need to deal with. They may need to write this month’s newsletter, or call the troublesome person.

Multitasking is also addictive. Checking your email frequently causes you to want to check it even more because it activates the brain’s reward circuits. This feeling of reward then causes you to check it more. The behavior is repeated until it becomes a habit.

People who are deeply invested in multitasking will object strongly to being told it’s not effective. They’re attached to the rush and the myth that they’re being productive. Their self-image may also be connected to being one.

To have less stress, be more productive and have more creativity, reduce your multitasking. Work on one thing at a time. You can alternate projects, working on one for 30-60 minutes before moving on to another one. In this way, you’ll get more done and be calmer and more relaxed.

~ Linda-Ann Stewart

Linda-Ann Stewart helps business and professional women who feel stuck, overwhelmed and immobilized to focus, prioritize and break through so they generate more business and create a consistent income. To apply for a complimentary consultation, email LAS@Linda-AnnStewart.com with “Discovery” in the subject line, or call her at 928-600-0452.