Multitasking is a must in public relations and marketing – varied clients, work, deadlines, etc., all necessitate the ability to juggle multiple disparate tasks at once. But recently multitasking’s negative effects have been center-stage, not just on work quality and quantity but also to brains in general. And it’s getting worse: with constant Internet access and an increasingly always-online attitude, focus is harder and harder to achieve.
According to a recent study, it seems that multitasking makes us feel more emotionally satisfied with our work, regardless of actual output – which, unfortunately, is often poor. This is most likely because our brain wasn’t designed to multitask – it can’t focus on more than one thing at a time, but is forced to quickly switch between activities without ever singling out a single task.
The fact that we feel better about ourselves when we multitask even though our work suffers brought me back to an article that I shared on Facebook recently. The ‘Busy’ Trap asserts that we live in a culture that thrives on being busy, even if it’s being busy just to be busy.
But, in a working world where we’re managing multiple social media accounts, answering questions from clients, reporters and coworkers, checking email, reading, writing, sending pitches and more – sometimes all at the same time – how are we supposed to go back to single-tasking?
While there are many tricks that can help us focus and cut down on the clutter, here are my top three:
1. Shut off notifications.
I don’t have anything that pops up on my screen while I’m working… not email, Twitter, GChat or anything of that nature. Additionally, I don’t receive many notifications on my phone. While turning off my always-on mentality has been tough, turning off the constant dings that distract from what I’m working on has greatly improved my focus and output.
2. Listen to music.
I’m sure this seems counterintuitive but in an open office environment listening to music through headphones cuts down on the chance that I’ll overhear a conversation that I’ll want to chime in on. And if someone really needs my attention a tap on the shoulder is all it takes!
3. Create to-do lists
At any point in time I have 3-4 to-do lists going, not counting the individual ones I keep for each client. I’m a list maker and I can’t help it. But the lists themselves can get out of control. Before I go home everyday I jot down a short list of things I expect to finish the next day so when I get in to the office in the morning I can start cranking. Generally, I pull my “today” list from things that are on my list for each client and I keep it short so that I can finish it along with the tasks that pop up throughout the day.
So now that I’ve shared some of my stay-sane techniques, what are some of yours?