Round 1: You have 20 seconds, take a piece of paper and a pen and draw two horizontal lines straight across.
On the first line, write: “I am great at multitasking.” On the second line, write the numbers 1-20.
Round 2: Now, flip that paper over and draw two more lines straight across.
In the following 20 seconds, on the first line, alternate writing one letter from the sentence “I am great at multitasking,” followed by the sequential numbers 1-20.
It should look like this: I1 A2 M3 A4 G5 R6, [… etc.]
When time is up, evaluate. How did you do? Were you able to complete the second half of this exercise?
Not one member of the Flood Marketing team completed the sequence. But, why? What does this exercise demonstrate?
To put it simply, multitasking is impossible. Our brains are trying to process two tasks with different criteria at the same time, with neither task receiving total focus.
Further, looking at your attempt in the second round, was it done well? Does your writing look as neat as in Round 1?
… Not likely.
So, what’s the point?
At any given moment during the workday, many of us have 10 or more tabs open in our Internet browsers, we have team members approaching our desks asking for our attention, we have emails coming in, notifications popping up, phones ringing, and so many other distractions that can only be described as the nature of an office setting.
How possible is it to accomplish tasks thoroughly, correctly, taking care to apply the appropriate investment of our attention with so much going on?!
Are there solutions to reducing workplace distractions? Is there any hope!?
The Flood Marketing team took some time to stop and discuss the importance of time-blocking & task-prioritization. We concluded by creating a general “working agreement,” aimed to mitigate open-office workplace distractions and to help each of us follow through with assignments at hand. We decided it’s not only OK to tell teammates, “this has to wait,” but insisting is often imperative. Using calendar invites or internal messaging platforms to request one another’s attention at a future time is preferable to approaching the desk of a teammate who’s concentrating.
We also agree that, from time to time, things will come up that cannot wait. Especially in a digital marketing environment, there are time-sensitive responsibilities that appear, unforeseen.
In order to avoid “switch-tasking”, do our best, and commit to our individual work wholeheartedly, it’s necessary that we focus on one thing at a time. Calendars and visuals with clearly defined time blocks are incredibly helpful for refocusing ourselves, but also for the team to plainly see that, for example, from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. on Thursday, team members A & B are entirely committed to working on Project X.
So, try the exercise with your co-workers, your kids, or whoever you encounter in life that believes multi-tasking is an efficient skill! Slow down, invest & divide your time wisely, and strive to complete tasks well.