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The irony of multitasking
Recent studies show that the concept of multitasking is based on a miscalculation. Trying to handle more things at a time makes you actually less effective.
According to a study by the University of Michigan your brain's performance decreases by 20 to 40 percent if you work simultaneously on a bunch of tasks instead of taking care of one after the other. And it's not only about burden oneself with too much to do.
Especially if you work in an open-space office you're constantly being interrupted by ringing phones, colleagues asking things and whatever else happens around. Scientists of the University of California calculated that in such environment you can devote yourself to a certain task for only three minutes in average before being disturbed.
These interruptions of course have a very devastating effect on your work flow, because it takes about two minutes to be fully concentrated again on whatever you were distracted from. Thus when you're not able to focus on your work for longer than three minutes and then need two minutes to get back on track again, you lose about 40 percent of your working time.
All the more you can't keep up with handing the tasks you need and start to feel stressed. For most people it's harder to work under heavy pressure, thus it turns out multitasking made you way less productive as if you tried the opposite approach.
Colleagues often do not consider this context when they "just ask a question" or want to chat a little. A friendly conversation can help to make them aware of how annoying that can be. For being able to work more focused try the following tips.
- Try to handle one task after the other, not more simultaneously
- If there's no other way, try to finish at least a substep of a certain task, before moving on to something new. For instance complete the sentence of an e-mail you were writing on before answering the phone
- Set priorities - not every task has to be handled immediately
- Try to keep some time clear for concentrated work only, for instance by redirecting the phone to somebody else for one hour per day
- Turn off notification functions of your e-mail program and answer incoming e-mails in blocks rather than immediately
When it comes to concentration, humans could learn a lot from cats. When your kitty plays or cleans itself, it's 100 % focused on what it's doing at the moment. And that's the secret of both its acrobatic movements and shiny fur.
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