Multitasking makes us more stupid. Studies show it. In fact, The University of Utah claims that using a cell phone while driving reduces reaction time by just as much if the driver had a blood alcohol level of at least .08%. While there’s enough evidence to support that multitasking hinders more than it helps, there still seems to be a common assumption that it is the key to productivity.
If it was left up to our own personal opinions, we’d all think we’re able to pitch a client on an idea while simultaneously juggling three bowling pins on top of a balance beam…that’s surrounded by a circle of fire. While all this is going on you’re also trading stocks from your iPhone and preparing handmade sushi (spicy salmon of course).
What multitasking is really code for in the corporate world: Procrastination. While we wish we could multitask like that guy in the first paragraph, what we’re really doing is trying to keep up with the speed of interactivity. The work emails, IM’s, text messages, Facebook notifications, Foursquare Checkins, Instagram uploads (“this filter, no this filter, ah, this is the one”). We think we’re getting more done by keeping up with the demands of everyday life, when in reality multitasking is really just another, uglier form of procrastination. Multitasking leads to stress, inhibits creative ability, creates difficulty problem solving, and slows thinking.
Here’s a general rule of thumb on if your “multitasking” is decreasing your work productivity: If you’re right hand is working harder than your left hand, constantly hovering on that track pad or mouse, you’re doing a lot of consuming, not creating. If you were creating, you’d typically have both hands on the keyboard. At that point, it’s time to stop telling yourself to multi-task and procrastinate smarter, starting with these tactics.
Tidy up the Office Kitchen
Cleaning with a sense of purpose is a great stress management technique. Whether it’s the office kitchen (the favor will be appreciated) your office or cube, cleaning will leave you more relaxed than before. Clutter leads to dissatisfaction and is a visual reminder of all the work that needs to be done.
Say Hello to a Co-Worker
Preferably one you don’t know very well. Most offices have some type of internal IM system in place. Forget about getting to know people on that. Pick up those legs and walk over to a new employee’s cube or say hi to senior team member you’ve been dying to make an impression on. You’ll feel happier after a good conversation and hopefully +1 in the friend category.
You’re not going to get any results from perusing your Facebook news feed. Do something useful. You may be cubicle bound but that doesn’t mean you can’t work on your legs, arms, and abs. From a cubicle dip to a desk chair swivel, there’s easy exercises for everyone. I’ll work on a follow up post with some of my favorite desk exercises.
The key is to always find a way to work while you’re working, even if you’re not producing actual work. It keeps your mind focused instead of distracted from what your unread Groupon deal email, ex’s Twitter stream, Deadspin news, or Perez Hilton gossip has to offer.
How do you procrastinate smarter at work?