It’s a sticky situation!

I have to admit that I’m a “sticky note” person. They are all around me in assorted colors and shapes; reminding me of calls to make, things to do, deadlines to meet and other assorted tasks of the day. I put them on my desk, my computer, my purse, the dashboard of my car – everywhere. While this may be disturbing to others, I confess that at one time these were like little badges of honor – calling out my ability to multitask with the best of them. Not anymore. Why? Well, I did some research and found that basically it doesn’t really work.

First of all it’s not really multitasking; it’s more like multi-switching from one task to another. Instead of increasing your productivity, researchers have found that it can reduce your productivity by approximately 40 percent! Seriously the human brain is amazing but it can only handle so much. Switching from one task to another makes it hard to block out distractions, makes it easier to lose focus and actually slows you down. So much for the “Multitasking Badge of Honor”.

Multi-switching stresses you out and can even lead to inattention blindness; that’s when you are at a point where you don’t see the obvious in front of you. In fact, a 2009 study conducted at Western Washington University found that 75% of college students who walked across a campus square talking on their cell phones did NOT notice a clown riding a unicycle nearby! Even though they were technically looking at what was around them, it wasn’t actually registering. Think about how dangerous this can be in another circumstance; say driving and trying to text at the same time.

As one person summed it up, “Multitasking is the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.”

We all know that time is a luxury and focusing on one task at a time isn’t all that practical in the hustle and bustle of every day. One researcher suggests putting things in similar batches – for instance, answering emails, going through snail mail, returning calls – things that require the same mindset. Although you will be doing several things, your mindset is focused in a common area.

For me, going cold turkey on the sticky notes would be a little extreme. Maybe I’ll just start putting them in batches. At least it’s a start. How about you?

Posted by MJ Thomas

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