Multi-Tasking or Multi-Interrupting?

I’m going to check email for an hour until, “Oh, I have to take that call from the client. We’ve been playing phone tag. Hello?”, while I’m signing a cheque and your cell phone rings from that other client you said you would call back when you got out of the car. Back to email until I forgot to message that person back on my Facebook account about giving a quote.

Ah, the beauty of multi-tasking, says the first-born Aries!

It’s the thing that makes us all feel busy and useful and then we end our day accomplishing, nothing. Or, nothing we wanted to.

That is when I learned started to switch (no pun intended) my brain from a multi-tasking mindset to a multi-interrupting one. Multi-tasking is a myth. It cannot be done successfully if you want to complete anything.

Interruptions are generally detrimental when you are focused on one project and then you’re interrupted by something completed unrelated. You have to shift your focus, your resources and “warm up” to the new topic. It takes much longer than you think and then you have to “warm up” to the original task.

Studies show that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the original task! Okay, so what if I lose about 23 minutes every time I switch projects?

Unfortunately, the other major draw back is that it causes a significant amount more stress because you tend to work faster to try to compensate for the interruption, which fuels more stress. And then the stress of feeling like you’re not being able to keep up

Sound familiar? All too much for lawyers these days.

Some tips, which I’m trying to incorporate into my day:

1. Set a timer. I set a timer so that it keeps me focused for at least short bursts of time (maybe 20 minutes or one hour, depending on the type of “project”).

2. Do not disturb. Manage your interruptions by setting time aside to let people know that you are not to be interrupted. Stack all you interruptions together so you can deal with them in a block and then focus on some things.

3. Stop self-interruptions. Turn off your internet browser, notifications (audio and pop-ups) so that you can minimize your self-sabotage to productivity.

Did you read this whole post without looking at something else? Good start, if you did.

-Elizabeth Mah

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