Multitasking Literally Hurts Your Brain: Q&A with Time Management Expert Julie Morgenstern

Multitasking is actually bad for our health.

In a world of multitasking and constant distractions –from the ping of texts and emails to everyone having to wear more hats at work than they used to– time management is one of the biggest challenges. We might feel like we’re doing more — and, in a way, we are — but we’re actually get less done in the process. So, is it possible in this day and age to streamline your work style, be more productive and get back some time in your day to focus on big picture stuff, strategy and brainstorming, all of which will make you more effective at your job?  Yes, says Julie Morgenstern, a productivity expert and bestselling author of five books including Time Management from the Inside Out. Dubbed the “queen of putting people’s lives in order” by USA Today, Morgenstern has made it her life’s mission to help people get more out of everyday and find focus in their lives, both at work and at home.  This month marks the launch of her new Circa Balanced Life Planner, a paper-based system for the digital age, designed to help people make good decisions about where to spend their time. Sign us up!

Morgenstern spent some of her valuable time talking to us about the email addiction epidemic, why being pulled in a million different directions and always being connected is bad for the brain, and sharing some great advice for how to manage your time more effectively this year.

Why is multitasking ineffectual?

It has been scientifically demonstrated that the brain cannot effectively or efficiently switch between tasks, so you lose time. It takes four times longer to recognize new things so you’re not saving time; multitasking actually costs time. You also lose time because you often make mistakes. If you’re multitasking and you send an email and accidentally “reply all” and the person you were talking about is on the email, it’s a big mistake. In addition, studies have shown that we have a much lower retention rate of what we learn when multitasking, which means you could have to redo the work or you may not do the next task well because you forgot the information you learned. Everyone’s complaining of memory issues these days – they’re symptoms of this multitasking epidemic.  Then, of course, there’s the rudeness factor, which doesn’t help develop strong relationships with others.

 

Have distractions multiplied in recent years and, if so, how?  

One is obviously the smartphone, which has made it so that you cannot get away. There are no safe zones where you can actually unplug. You feel like you’re busy and doing something – it’s a chemical addiction. There are so many things we can do through our screens now – stay in touch with friends, do business, entertainment, watch Netflix, do research, create a Pinterest board.  The volume of tasks in our lives that we can now do through a screen rather than tactilely has increased exponentially. It’s more than just email. It’s all the things we can do on screens.

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News We Can Use: Have We Become a No-Vacation Nation?

Happy almost Labor Day!

Are you heading off  – or have you already clocked out — for some much needed R&R?  If your answer is “no,” you’re not alone.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans left an estimated 226 million vacation days on the table last year. To put it into perspective — that’s almost $35 billion dollars worth of vacation days that went to waste.

The question is “Why?”.  Were those findings an outgrowth of what has been a challenging economy and very tight workforce? Are people just too overworked to take time off?  Do they not feel supported in using those days? If they do hit the road, did they feel the need to remain connected?

Some of those answers are featured in this great infographic created by Column Five Media for Rasmussen College.

But it made us curious: Will we see the same kind of numbers this year?

Help us out and take our quick survey and tell us how you spent YOUR summer vacation: 

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MFL95VS.

We’ll post the results next week.

In the meantime, in honor of this holiday season, we pulled together some top tips to help you stay in vacation mode — at least through the weekend:

  • Don’t check your email. The good news is that most people are off, so people should not be expecting a quick turnaround for messages.  Set an out of office message and plan to get back to people on Tuesday.
  • Step away from the phone. Are you guilty of spending more time with your mobile device (or computer) than you do with your actual friends and family?  This holiday, put down the phone and focus on play time. (To lessen the temptation: Change that setting on the phone so it doesn’t ping every time a message is delivered.)
  • Find a place with little to no connectivity.  Nothing like going off the grid for some peace and quiet.
 How are you spending this holiday weekend?  Tell us here, on Facebook or Twitter.

NEWS WE CAN USE: Why Working from Home is Just Like Being in the Office

Working from home is not as fun as it sounds.

Working from home is getting more popular and also harder, writes the Wall Street Journal‘s work/life columnist Sue Shellenbarger, in this interesting recent article. With the ability to be connected 24/7 and more ways for your boss to be monitoring your progress and productivity from afar, doing your job remotely may be just as demanding and busy as if you went into the office every day.

According to IDC, a Framingham, Mass., market-research company, the number of corporate employees who work from home at least one day a month has been rising 23% a year since 2007, on average, to 22.8 million last year. Jessica works from home one day a week and she can attest to the fact that some of those days are so packed with conference calls and deadline-driven tasks that she doesn’t even have time to shower or say hello to her toddler between play dates. In fact, because she has a laptop that hooks into her company’s network and a wirelessly-connected duplicate of her work phone at home, most people don’t even realize she’s not physically in the office.

As technology has allowed us to be reachable at all hours no matter where we are (even, in some cases, on vacation), companies are increasingly offering employees more flexibility and telecommuting options, which is a good thing. At the same time, even when you work remotely, taking a break from the hustle and bustle of a busy office environment has gotten more challenging.

Share your thoughts on working from home with us here, on Facebook or Twitter.

Meet Yourself Half-Way: Why a Mid-Year Check-in Can Spell Success in All Areas of Your Life

August is here!  Aside from ungodly heat, spiked lemonade and the omnipresent Summer Olympics, what this time of year truly has in store is the opportunity to do a check-in with yourself.

In sports, the split is the intermediate times during a race that gives athletes an understanding of how they are performing, allowing them to adjust their pace accordingly.  In screenwriting, figuring out the midpoint is the key to determining where the story goes, what it means — and how to make it a success. And, in business, smart companies examine goals and performance at the half-way point to ensure that they will hit the marks set earlier in the year.

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The Four People You Don’t Want in Your Meetings

If we had a nickel for every meeting we’ve sat in that was completely unnecessary, we’d be rolling in dough. Unfortunately, meetings are an unavoidable part of corporate culture, whether you’re at a big or small outfit.  Of course, we’ve all been invited to meetings with 20-plus people, no schedule, goals, or next steps and afterwards lamented the myriad ways in which we could have spent the last two hours more effectively. In fact, a recent survey by recruitment firm Robert Half International showed 28 per cent of meetings were viewed as unnecessary or unproductive and executives felt preparation time, meetings and follow-up represented a significant block of time they could better spend elsewhere.

When done correctly, meetings can be a great place to communicate your ideas and thoughts, brainstorm with others and raise important questions. You have a captive audience, a goal in mind, and a platform that lends itself to discussion. Some people, however, don’t know the right way to participate in meetings and, as a result, can derail the whole process.

Here are the four types of communicators we’ve witnessed in meetings time and time again (and wished we hadn’t):

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HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF THE TIME YOU HAVE

Barbara Walters once said, “Most of us have trouble juggling. The woman who says she doesn’t is someone whom I admire but have never met.”

We consider ourselves able to juggle a lot of different things both at home and in the workplace (as Jessica is a new mother, multitasking has taken on new proportions!),  but somehow there doesn’t ever seem to be enough hours in a day to get everything done. And in the current economic climate, we, like others, are finding that we have more to do and fewer resources with which to do it.

So how do you make the most of the time you have? With all the modern-day distractions we encounter all day long — from the constant ping of our e-mail in-box to call-waiting and cell phones — it’s amazing we get anything done. While we can’t add another day to the week (we always say it wouldn’t matter because we’d fill up that day too!), there are ways you can manage your time to accomplish more things on your to-do list.  They include:

1. Create an e-mail free zone. According to time management expert Julie Morgenstern, who wrote a book called Never Check E-Mail in the Morning, it’s important to set aside at least an hour each day where you don’t look at your e-mail.  She recommends it be first thing in the morning so you can dedicate that time to working on strategy and big ideas. (TIP: If you don’t open up your e-mail to begin with, you won’t be tempted to look at it.)  Once that hour is up, you can check your in-box and, chances are, very few important messages will have been missed during that time. If you absolutely cannot go an entire 60 minutes straight without checking e-mail, break it up into 20 minute increments where you don’t check for 20, then answer e-mail for 20, then don’t check again for 20 more minutes.
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