Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Price of Today's Multitasking

In most careers today – and definitely in the information technology, engineering, accounting and finance fields – it’s practically impossible to get by without multiple forms of technology.  We simultaneously use laptops, big screen monitors, electronic notepads, smart phones, and televisions to complete our work, stay connected with both family and work colleagues, and basically manage our entire lives.

Technology enables us to do more, faster, increasing our need for multitasking abilities.  Yet we often have trouble shutting off these multitasking tendencies when the situation calls for focus and being in the moment.

When you get home to take care of your children, spend time with your wife, or simply relax with the dog, you may find you have trouble leaving the iphone or inbox alone.  Maybe you can’t even watch a TV program without simultaneously surfing the web on your laptop.  Because you aren’t fully present to observe the people around you, you may experience diminished empathy for others.

Maybe you’re working on a project that requires your full attention.  What would normally take you 30 minutes may take two hours, while you incessantly refresh your email,, and your Facebook feed (in fact, the writer of this article has checked her Twitter feed several times and we’re only in the third paragraph).

Some projects simply take longer to complete when we constantly give in to the endless distractions the Internet provides.  Others are impossible to complete, to your fullest capacity, without true, inspired focus.  If you never put away your phone, close your browser, and absorb yourself in the task at hand, you may never realize your full potential, and great things may go unachieved.

Look – we know that tiny rush of adrenaline you get from a new message or comment or breaking news story is rewarding – otherwise you wouldn’t be so obsessed.  But we’ve got a solution that will both reward you, and make you a calmer, more productive person.

The solution is to work in time increments.  Tell yourself you will close everything, and work on ONE THING for one to two hours.  When that time is up, you get to round the bases: first email, second facebook, third your blogroll.  When you’re home, it’s time to work for another solid hour or two of calm focus.

You’ll be amazed how much more rewarding those quick hits of instantaneous virtual gratification feel when you’ve allowed yourself to really earn them.

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