08 January 2007

Getting organized: Multitasking rarely helps

Duane says:

Give a single project priority in your mind, and focus on making some meaningful progress. I have a bad habit each night of sitting down at the computer and thinking, "I can work on the blog, I can install that new router, I can switch my email server over to the other box so i can shut the old one down, I can catch up on my "real job" work, I can work on one of several e-book projects, I can read email, I can check my newsfeeds..." and none of them seem to float to the top so rather than focus on one at the expense of the others, I pretty much remain in the chaos and don't get anything done. So I plan on taking my own advice next year. :)

Several of you (including Beth) echoed the basic suggestion to focus on a single thing and do it for a set amount of time. Set the timer for ten or fifteen minutes and go. Whether or not you finish, at least you know you've made some progress.

This is one of the hardest habits for me to adopt as a parent because I've gotten so used to interruption...it's almost like if my kids don't interrupt me, I'll just do it myself. I wrote about the myth of multitasking last year, and find that with the craziness of the holidays I've slipped back into my old habits. When I let my mind rest on one task or project for a little while, I always feel calmer and more present.

Of course, interruptions will still happen, and some days even ten contiguous minutes feels like a luxury. So five minutes. Two minutes. Whatever you can manage to make some progress on a task you want to finish. In five minutes you can clear all the trash out of your car. Two minutes is enough to schedule the dentist appointment you've been meaning to make for the last nine months. It's something, right?

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I don't know if this has been stated before, but the human brain doesn't stop developing until age 25 (hence the limit on car rental). Kids can't multi-task because their physical brains just aren't there yet.

What makes them unable to pick their dirty socks and throw them in the hamper? Science may never know.

I totally agree with your theory - that's why my NY resolution is to excercise for 10 minutes a day - start with what's possible. As far as the 5 minutes to clean trash out of my car - that's very optimistic im afraid.

Amanda wrote on this at Naturally WAHMs: Fifteen Minute Work Blitzes

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