This is a guest blog post by Carol Evenson
Science has done its due diligence, and the research speaks for itself; multitasking is officially out as a productivity tool. In fact, the latest data shows that multitasking can actually decrease productivity. Clearly, as a busy engineer, a decrease in productivity is the last thing you want and need.
In this post, I’ll show you how to take a look at your habits over the last year and convince you to make your first 2017 resolution to leave multitasking behind for good.
Three Types of Multitaskers
Recent research highlights three different types of multitaskers. While their reasons for multitasking may seem sound, the end result comes with a hefty price tag (an estimated $650 million in losses for American companies).
The three types of multitaskers are as follows:
Desperate multitaskers. These busy workers have loaded themselves up with projects – so many that their to-do lists may be genuinely impossible to clear. In a desperate attempt to make progress, they work on several projects at once, even after realizing it may hurt their efficiency.
Impulsive multitaskers. Impulsive multitaskers may not even realize they are doing it, as they interrupt conversations and even meetings to text or check email. It feels right, and they see others doing it, so they continue to do so to the detriment of their goals.
Proud multitaskers. Some multitaskers believe that they are the exception to the rule and can multitask efficiently, even though science clearly shows that the brain can only focus on one thought, idea, or task at a time.
Your Brain on Multitasking
Today’s technology would have you believe you can multitask with the best of them, but what actually happens is your brain tries to switch between one task and the next more and more rapidly. While you might somehow get everything on your list done before your deadline, you probably won’t get any of it done well. This is because your brain constantly gets pulled away from one task to focus on another, then another, with no end. In the process, you miss subtle cues and small bits of information critical to taking your performance from mediocre to good or even great.
Technology Tools as Brain Assistants
One of the biggest downsides to multitasking is that it can actually prevent important information from being encoded into your short-term memory. Because the storage of information in short term memory is a crucial step before transferring to long-term memory, this can lead to information being lost for good.
When you end up with a long list of projects to get done, there are tools like workflow software to help you keep things organized. There is a wide range of software solutions that can be programmed to automatically track data and even make projections from that baseline to build future schedules and plans.
When you are involved in sales trainings, engineering seminars, or other important interactive sessions try to limit your smartphone use to break times. While it may not be comfortable to forcibly refrain from using a phone or laptop during a session, it will allow your brain to actually process and retain the information you came to learn. Actually processing and internalizing those lessons will boost your productivity more than text or email while you listen ever could.
As you take a look back on your habits over the past year, take note of the ways in which you may have tried to multitask in order to boost your productivity. Then, as you plan out the upcoming year, try to suppress your natural urge to multitask, and you will be able to see a marked growth in your daily productivity. At the same time, you will feel the relief and satisfaction that comes with giving yourself permission to focus fully on completing one project before beginning another. Over time, you’ll be able to realize the fruits of your own labors, strengthening your belief in yourself, your engineering company, your coworkers, and the quality of your work. Ultimately, you’ll find that not only are you being more productive and profitable, you’re also healthier and happier as a result.
About the Author Carol Evenson:
Carol Evenson is a process automation consultant who specializes in systems management. She has worked alongside Fortune 1000 companies and currently assists organizations within the the US and UK.
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To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success