Do you list "great multitasker" as one of your personal strengths on your Linkedin profile? Well for those employers in the know, multitasking in an office environment isn't quite as efficient as many of us think and research shows that it is actually bad for our brain. Skeptical? How can this be? Us babes are known for being the best damn multitaskers around? Well, we're not saying multitasking doesn't have its place, we all know it does and is just one of the many things that make us superior to men. ;) For example if you run a busy cafe and can't multitask like a pro then you're probably in some trouble...
However when we're in an office environment trying to channel all our focus and creativity to complete a task while juggling distraction after distraction, our brain is actually left impaired. On average, we're interrupted 11 times in an hour which over a whole day adds up to a lot of lost time. A study by Basex found that these distractions add up to roughly 2.1 hours per day (28%) taking into account that workers take about 5 minutes to recover and refocus on the original task.
So now that we know that multitasking is super stressful on our brains and impairs our short term memory and concentration, how do we fight the urge to go against what we babes were born to do? The first step is to recognise what distractions are most commonly causing us to break focus, the top 10 distractions as determined by the company Dr Adam Fraser Pty Ltd in a study are as follows;
1. Emails - office alert and volume of emails
2. People – office colleagues
3. Phone – office and mobile
4. Distracting thoughts – thinking of the next thing to do
5. Noise – in open plan offices
6. Clients expecting instant responses
7. Personal issues playing on your mind
8. Unnecessary meetings
9. Mixed priorities from management
And here are the 10 best strategies to minimise distractions (as determined us) below;
1. Turn off email alerts. These notifications seem harmless but if you think about they're the most common and distracting element to our work day.
2. Plan your day before you look at your emails so that you’re working to your own schedule not to tasks coming through your inbox from other people constantly.
3. Minimise checking your inbox to 2-3 times per day. If you have clients that expect instant responses it's time to start managing their expectations. If you're worried it's an emergency, they should likely call you about it.
4. If clients are still breaking your balls expecting lightening quick responses it's OK to occasionally turn on your "out of office" until you smash out your priority tasks.
5. Don't be afraid to let your colleagues know that you need a little bit of time out and aren't to be distracted with conversations like what they should get for lunch or who they're tipping to get kicked out of The Bachelor this week.
6. Find somewhere quiet when you need to focus if the noise around you is distracting or get some noise cancelling headphones and make a chilled out playlist or listen to some classical music. No we're not Mozart fans, classical music is proven to improve brain function.
7. Remove yourself from your usual office environment if you need to focus and think creatively.
8. Don't leave a webpage open with your Facebook newsfeed. Ahhh the Facebook newsfeed, this is where productivity goes to die, beware.
9. Keep your open tabs to a minimum. Does your browser have 27 different tabs open because you're multitasking and jumping from one task to another, back to the first and then starting something new? Be strict about sticking to your daily plan (where possible, we all know stuff comes up) and tick off one task at a time, it will help motivate you as well.
10. Schedule 15 breaks. When you plan your day schedule breaks to reward yourself for finishing tasks, this way you stay more focused and motivated to just get it done!
Image via @premuimperformance
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Stats and research via Business Chicks