In today’s fast-paced world, many people think that you need to be great at multitasking in order to succeed. But actually, recent research shows that multitasking hampers brain function and doesn’t necessarily improve time management. Indeed, according to a recent Harvard Business Review blog post, “Multitasking may help us check off more thinks on our to-do lists. But it also makes us more prone to making mistakes, more likely to miss information and cues, and less likely to retain information in working memory, which impairs problem solving and creativity.”
Fortunately, according to Paul Hammerness and Margaret Moore, this new research also shows how “the brain can learn to ignore distractions, making you more focused, creative, and productive.” Here are a few tips to get you started:
1. “Tame Your Frenzy”
In order to help your brain work more productively, try to get control over your negative emotions, which can actually decrease brain function. In order to think more positively, you may need to take a walk to clear your head. Or if negativity is a more long-term problem, then work towards managing stress better, getting more sleep, improving your work-life balance, and dealing with difficult people more effectively, all of which can improve your mood and help you to work more effectively.
2. “Apply the Brakes”
Help your brain work more clearly by slowing down and eliminating the distractions. This could mean getting away from your computer and phone and coworkers in an empty conference room with a pencil and a pad of paper to fully focus on a brainstorming session. Or if it is time for a group meeting, then perhaps you should plan a short meeting entirely focused on the task at hand, without the distraction of phones or other devices. Without the distraction of multitasking technology, you may find that your time management is much more efficient already, and it may help your work-life balance as well.
3. “Shift Sets”
Instead of moving straight from one task to the next at your desk all day, take a little mental vacation whenever it is time for you to shift gears between tasks. (And checking your email doesn’t count!) Stretch your legs, stare out the window, or get a drink of water – send your brain a physical signal that it is time to switch gears, and it will work more effectively throughout the day. Indeed, you can vastly improve your time management with just a little attention to the latest scientific research about the human brain.