- Coach Alicia Byers
3 Ways to Quit Multitasking (and actually be productive!)
Updated: Apr 16, 2021
Multitasking isn't your way to more achievement. It's honestly your way to burnout. When everything in our life feels urgent and important, we can quickly think multitasking is essential. There's no way to get it all done without it. We hustle all day long and collapse on the couch after dinner. . . not really sure what boxes we checked, but boy are we exhausted. That life isn't for you. Multitasking takes the energy and focus we have and diverts it across a few different tasks - making us not truly focused on any. Our brains cannot focus 100% on two things at once. If you want to relax faster, get more done and recall your days the multitask free life is for you.
Here's 3 (simple) strategies to help you quit multitasking:
1) Identify Your Habits
This seems silly, but get real with yourself. It's really hard to change things we are unaware we do. This is where it can get a little tricky. You can self-determine your multi-tasking ways or you can gain feedback from others (don't forget, only ask for feedback from people you trust and value). Self identification is a great place to start, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say you may be a little like me. We don't always know when we are multitasking and certainly when it's becoming a problem. Seek feedback.
Do you check your email while you're sitting with your family? Yep - multitasking. Do you take phone calls while you are writing email responses or clearing the inbox? Yep - multitasking. Do you open up your browser and flip between tabs every few moments? Yep - multitasking. Do you text and drive? You know it - multitasking. It can feel like it's not a big deal to do multiple things at once, but I challenge you to try one thing at a time. See what happens to your mind, heart and family when you engage in each task fully present and aware. *CLARIFICATION - I'm not talking about having background music on or turning on some Netflix while you fold the clothes. I'm talking about two brain engaging activities at once. Instead of using time to fold laundry and catch up on a work call or double down on a development podcast ... consider being fully present and enjoy some silent space or listen to some of your favorite music. Truly, identify your habits and write out the ways you currently multitask. Always start with awareness.
2) Make a Priorities List
We feel a strong urge to multitask when we treat everything on our list as urgent and important. This simple strategy can help tame your multitasking ways. You can do this weekly or daily. Sit down and make a list of the top 3 - 5 things that are your must do's for the day/week. Be intentional about what's important to complete and what is deserving of your 100% effort and focus. (NEWSFLASH: all the things that are important to you deserve your best and full attention - - don't you dare multitask these items). When we start recognizing and acknolwledging our priorities, we can begin to untie multitasking from them. For example, if you've got kids I would venture to say they're very important to you. A daily top priority. With our kids, quality and quantity of time matters. I work from home every day, so I have a lot of time with them (quantity). . . but if I don't turn my phone off or leave my laptop in the other room, they'll always get half my focus and attention (quality). By intentionally writing down that my kids are a top priority in my day, I've claimed that they are worth my 100% focus. So when I sit down with them, I'm triggered by my priorities list and I'm taking a step towards accountability. You can even take this one step further and vocalize your priorities to those in your circle. Sometimes I text a friend a simple "Going to hang with the kids for a few hours...chat after lunch!" and that releases me from my phone and allows me to put it down more freely. Ding Ding! It's much easier for me to be fully present when I've been intentional and strategic with my time. (time block if you don't...)
3) Remove the Distractions
Close the computer. Turn off the tv. Plug up the phone. Shut the door. All of these are simple things we can do to release us from multitasking. When you pair one of these simple actions with a timer - BOOM, cue the magic. You may not have the time to just shut yourself in your room and write peacefully all day. That's fine. But you may be able to carve out an hour per day to do so. Locking that bedroom door and setting a timer for 60 minutes may be the kind of boundaries you need to not get up 10x before you've even written the first line. Self control is a big one here. Silence your phone and put it away. Start small here. Try doing this for 30 minutes during the peak times you find yourself scrolling away. If you're always connected, that's how you'll always feel - connected and tied to something. That's not the freedom you want, I'm confident. Our people can wait 30 minutes to hear from us. We don't need to respond to each text the moment it comes in or even see the notification pop up. Maybe your biggest distractions are your kids. Please, don't remove them. H o w e v e r - you can set some boundaries that are age appropriate for your kids. Set up a fun play station for your kids and start with a 10 minute timer. If you have something that genuinely needs to get done you can try to do it over the course of 4 hours with your kids all around, or you can prioritize your time to get it done in one solid chunk of uninterrupted bliss! Lean into your people here...and it's okay to use tv. I'd rather my kids watch a movie and then get my 100% focus the rest of the morning than have half my focus for the entire morning. This is the tip I'm leaning into the most these days. Boundaries and removing distractions. We can do it!
So, there you have it. 3 ways you can start untying yourself from the grip of multitasking. Move towards your most present self and away from the distracted, frantic one. Life is greener when we are aware of our habits, prioritize our commitments and remove the distractions.
Moving towards this with you,