The Remarkable Effect Of Multitasking On Your Life

By Shawna Bailey, - In Productivity

Picture of Go Go Gaget Man Multitasking

Upon starting your computer this morning you likely checked your email and maybe scanned the updates on Twitter.  While you may have thought you were tackling tasks “one-at-a-time”, by the end of the hour how many tabs did you have open?

Perhaps you are dreading the arrival of Summer Break – preparing for the chaos of trying to keep you business running while (un)successfully keeping your kids entertained at home.

Yes my friend, you likely suffer from Go-Go-Gadget Syndrome;  you pull many tools out of your hat to accomplish several tasks, and before you know it you are fumbling over every task at hand and doing everyone a disservice.

The Facts

While some of us may think that we excel at multitasking, the internet is full of articles regarding it’s detrimental effects:  stress, mistakes, memory impairment, decreased performance, slower response times, and impaired creativity.  Most of you are familiar with this list (and are probably even experiencing some right now!), but did you know that multitasking also changes the way that your brain actually works?

The Science

Research has shown that when you are attending to one task, an area at the front of your brain (the prefrontal cortex) is activated, and it’s this area specifically that helps you focus your attention on a goal and messages other brain systems to help carry out the task.  Both the left and the right sides of the prefrontal cortex work together on a single task, but when another one is added, the sides start to work independently and each side of the brain tackles a different job.  This division initiates the breakdown in efficiency and job performance.

The Answer

I have read many comments posted within various business groups about the difficulty of doing several things at once (whether it’s balancing work and home, or prioritizing tasks within a business day).

From turning on my computer in the morning to preparing for my children being home this summer, I am at-ease and optimistic of each day’s success.

My trick?

My days are fully outlined in my office calendar, with my own “80% rule” applied throughout each day.  In truth, my “kids-at-school” business calendar looks very different from my “kids-at-home” one.  After over ten years of running my business from home, I am finally able to say that I have somewhat mastered the chaos.

Don’t “oooh” and “ahhh” just yet; it took me years before I was able to stop what wasn’t working, and to teach myself to handle one-thing-at-a-time.

I could regale you with some of the most horrifying mistakes that I made while trying to do two (three, or four) things at once.  It took many unfortunate accidents before I embraced the fact that I cannot multitask successfully.

Leave 

The ability to juggle tasks is a standard job-requirement (both as a parent and as a small business owner).  As the CEO of your company, you need to be able to tend to emergencies as well as eliminate the need to do more than one thing at a time.

First, you need to get a calendar.

You need to prioritize your day and set time slots for each task.  Without scheduling each task, you will easily drift from answering emails to updating Twitter and back again.

Finally, you need to read “Enough Time in the Day:  Following the 80% Rule“.  This rule has been the secret to my success in being able to handle absolutely any emergency that comes up:  whether it be a personal situation, a sudden business meeting, or a client emergency, I am able to handle it all and still maintain my day.

How many multi-tasking disasters have you had?  How do you manage to push away the constant temptation to do more than one thing at a time?  Be sure to comment below and let me know the effect of multitasking on your business – I’d love to hear from you!



Contributor

Entrepreneur, Social Media Extraordinaire, and Small Business Specialist

Connect: