Stop Multitasking, Tips to Take Back Your Life

For as long as I can remember, I have felt a push to become better and better at multitasking. Between work, home, family, life we are taught that it is possible to have it all and do it well. I truly believed that I was capable and actually quite good at multitasking, but as I spend more time in reflection and meditation, I can tell that it is taking a toll on my body.

The fast paced life is a result of the life that we live, we were told that computers and technology would cut our 40 hour work week in half, but quite the opposite has occurred. We are more busy than ever, and while we are connected around the world, we certainly are more distracted.

I have noticed that I find myself more anxious and less willing to sit and enjoy myself doing nothing or simply being. Email, Facebook, Twitter, and other projects provide instant gratification that are not bad in and of themselves but create an addictive quality that can creep into other parts of your life.

New research has shown that multitasking is doing multiple things poorly. We have a hard time writing, reading, or simply working on a task for a long period of time because we are trained to switch between tasks frequently. This means that we skim articles and lose our focus while writing. The result is lower quality and less creativity as we try to get multiple tasks done in the same time it took us to do one.

These tools were not meant to become our masters and these things can be incredibly useful if used correctly and with proper boundaries. I have some suggestions from what has helped my life, these can be implemented immediately and I would encourage you to not delay.
  • Turn off notifications of new emails, tweets, messages, etc on your phone. There is a Pavlovian response that we can't help but look at our phone when we hear the ring or buzz.
  • When working on a task requiring your fullest attention and focus, remove all distractions (e.g. Internet, computer, phone, lock the door if necessary) so you can devote your fullest attention to what is necessary.
  • Set boundaries for yourself so your work life and home/social life do not become one. There is so much to do, believe me I know that, but you will lose vital time with your family/friends and valuable time for yourself if you do not stop taking work home with you. I enjoy my work very much, which makes it all the more tempting to work on it at home but if you don't draw the line somewhere, then when will you?
  • Put a limit on the number of tasks or projects you take on. Determine what you can comfortably do and stick with that. There will always be more to do, so you need to take control of your workflow.
  • Examine your life. Are there more efficient ways of doing your work? If you are an educator, are you assigning busy work that your students hate to do and you end up spending hours grading? I read an article about an efficiency expert who saved an office hours of wasted time because the printer was placed down the hall instead of near the desks. A little change can make a big difference.
Leo Babauta maintains the ZenHabits blog. His habits and insights are invaluable and he has recently condensed and solidified these ideas in his new book Focus. There is a free version, but the premium version gives you a lot more resources and benefits that may justify the cost for you.

We run the risk of becoming so connected and engulfed in our hairballs that we could lose our individuality. Each of you has so much to contribute as a person and should enjoy life and not simply live it. Those of you who say this is impossible because of your current situation must realize that you are not in control of what happens to you, but you are fully in control of how you react to it.

A deep breath  can do wonders and I encourage you to take a moment and step away from it all. Even a hectic life can maintain peace, but it requires focus. When you realize what is most important you will be able to find balance and peace. It will result in a happier, more creative you.