Research has shown for years that multi-tasking has a detrimental effect on learning outcomes and task completion (Dönmez & Akbulut, 2021). These poorer results are explained because often tasks are rushed or never completed. So how do we stop multi-tasking and get in the zone?
We all know attention is super important, e.g. think of an airline safety briefing. Yet attention is often scattered as we juggle too many tasks and don’t concentrate on any one thing. Here are four of our favourite tools to help you get focused.
1. Whether or not you’re a team leader, you’re a role model. So act now and demonstrate you are resisting to the pull of multi-tasking. When you’re asked a question, put your phone down, close your laptop or say that you’re putting your phone on silent. And be clear – ‘give me 3 minutes to finish what I’m doing and then we can talk for 5 minutes’, for example. In many cases leaders continue with the very behaviour they ask others to stop.
2. Use other simple tools. Turn off notifications on your phone, set ‘do not disturb’ times so the phone automatically switches off. Ask others to remind us when we automatically lapse into multi-tasking. Take action!
3. You can start conversations by naming it: ‘we know multi-tasking has poorer outcomes so can we turn off and put away our phones? Let me explain the specific purpose of this meeting. Let’s focus.’
4. Find out how to give feedback effectively and start practicing. As people get comfortable with this, you can talk to those who continue to multi-task and coach them to become more focused on the matter at hand.
You will always have multiple things to do. That does not mean you complete them at the same time. Being in the zone feels great because you actually get quality work completed – practice these simple steps together and you’ll be there more often.