How Multi-Tasking Can Tank Your Productivity

For more than a decade, Dr. Daniel Simons and his colleagues studied a form of invisibility known as inattentional blindness.

In the best-known demonstration, Simons showed a video and asked people to count how many times basketball players in white shirts passed a ball. After 30 seconds, a woman in a gorilla suit sauntered into the scene, faced the camera, thumped her chest and walked away. Half the viewers missed her. In fact, some people looked right at the gorilla and did not see it.

That video was a sensation, so a 2010 sequel again featured the gorilla (as expected). This time, viewers were so focused on watching for the gorilla that they overlooked other unexpected events like the changing background color.

How could they miss something right before their eyes? Inattentional blindness. Humans consciously see only a small subset of our visual world, and when we focus on one thing, we overlook others.

The Statistics on Multi-Tasking

Most people are unaware of the limits of their attention, which can cause dangerous situations (like texting and driving).

What about multi-tasking at work? A majority of people spend time bouncing between calls, e-mails, and creative tasks, believing that this plate-spinning approach makes them more efficient.

But studies suggest that multi-tasking is a problem, not an asset. Data shows that multi-tasking causes you to make more mistakes, retain less information, and fragment brain function. Here’s why.

Any time you need to pay attention, the prefrontal cortex of your brain begins working. Focusing on a single task means both sides of your prefrontal cortex are working together in harmony, but adding secondary tasks forces the left and right sides of the brain to operate independently. Scientists from the Paris Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) found that this “brain split” caused subjects to forget details and to make three times more mistakes.

Another study found that participants who multi-tasked during cognitive tasks experienced an IQ score decline similar to those who have stayed up all night. Some of the multi-tasking men had their IQ drop 15 points, leaving them with the average IQ of an 8-year-old child. That’s some jaw-dropping data!

So how can you avoid the multi-tasking “trap?” Here are four suggestions:

Place Lower Priority Projects Out Sight

When juggling assignments at work, intentionally stop and place lower priority projects out of sight.

Mute notifications from your e-mail or phone, send calls to voicemail, or put a sign on your door saying you will not be available for the next __ minutes. Give full attention to one project at a time and your creativity and efficiency will increase.

Use Time-Blocking

Rather than bouncing between tasks, map out chunks of time for each project. Twenty-minute blocks are a great way to schedule your most valuable time slots.

Turn Off Your Phone

Keep your phone off the table during meetings and turned off during peak productivity sessions.

Log Off Email

Studies show that the average professional spends about 23 percent of their day in e-mail.

But an Irvine study found when employees were cut off from e-mail for five days, heart tracking monitors revealed a decrease in stress and an increase in mental endurance. Employees who switch screens less often minimize multi-tasking and work more efficiently.

Consider limiting availability with automatic-reply settings like this: “I am not available at this time but will be checking messages again at 2 p.m. For immediate assistance, contact ________.”

Just Say No

The next time you’re tempted to multi-task, just say NO! You may think you’re getting more done, but you’re probably wrong.

3 Ways to Help Your Team Love Mondays

In 1966, an American band called the “The Mamas and the Papas” released a song about Monday that captured the mood of millions of people regarding that dreaded first day of the workweek:

“Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day.

Monday, Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way . .

Every other day, every other day, every other day of the week is fine, yeah . . .

But whenever Monday comes, but whenever Monday comes . . . you can find me cryin’ all of the time.”

How to Kick Those Monday Blues

It’s true. Not many of us look forward to the start of the week.

Half of all workers will be late to their jobs on Monday mornings. The abrupt transition from a free weekend to the grind makes many people miserable. But Mondays don’t have to be a drag. While you can’t magically get your team excited to head back to work on Mondays, there are a few things you can do to make Mondays a bit better.

Ax Monday Meetings

How often do you say something like, “let’s follow up on that first thing Monday morning?”

The start of the week may feel like the perfect time to reconnect and launch a new week. However, research shows that Monday mornings are actually a time when many people are at their most energetic and creative levels.

Rick’s investment team found that, when scheduling Monday morning meetings, they unwittingly drained energy levels and decreased momentum. By giving team members several hours alone to start the day, Monday morning “jump starts” made mid-day meetings much more effective.  

Team Breakfast

Pivotal, a software company based in San Francisco, believes company breakfasts are the key to building a cohesive company culture.

They actually serve breakfast EVERY DAY of the work week!

What makes Mondays better? Breakfast! Serving food warms people’s hearts and bonds your co-workers. Occasional Monday breakfasts can soften the workweek blues, build camaraderie in your team, and give people healthy fuel to launch into the routine.

A team breakfast doesn’t have to be strictly social. You can also use this time to brief people on announcements, share upcoming projects, or celebrate workplace wins for your team.

Friday Fun Days

A typical five-day workweek is a given for most managers.

But, did you know that 15 percent of companies have started implementing four-day workweeks?

Reusser Design, an Indiana Web app development company, slashed their hours from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursdays. Founder Nate Reusser says that the policy motivates everyone to work faster and with greater focus, much like the way people work just before going on vacation.

“You wouldn’t believe how much we get done,” Reusser said.

Four-day workweeks can boost morale and increase productivity. Employees with a shorter workweek are usually more enthusiastic when returning to work, and those energy levels fuel higher outputs.

Could your business consider taking one Friday off each month, or implementing half days on summer Fridays? A happier, more productive workforce may be worth the sacrifice!

Lighten That Monday Mood

In the US, approximately 100 million full-time employees aren’t engaged at work, which means a staggering 51 percent of people are slogging through their days on the payroll.

Underperformers can have a devastating effect on your company, but often a simple remedy can transform a negative work culture.

Look for ways to lighten up the Monday mood, and Mondays will lighten up on you!

How to Keep You and Your Team Motivated and On Task Before, During, and After the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us yet again, which can be either a good or a bad thing depending on your perspective.

On the one hand, it’s a great opportunity to reconnect with all of those friends, family members, and other loved ones that you may not have had as much time with as you would have liked throughout the year. On the other hand, your attention is constantly being pulled in about a million different directions – which can have bad implications in terms of your business’ productivity.

But, in truth, the holidays don’t have to kill the momentum you’ve been steadily building throughout the year. If you really want to keep yourself (and your team members) on task before, during, and after the holidays, there are a few key tips you’ll want to keep in mind.

Separate Your Work and Home Lives as Much as Possible

We’ve written in the past about how important it is to maintain a work/life balance, but it is especially so for you and your team members during the holidays.

As a leader, it is in your best interest to lay down a few hard and fast rules about “work is work, home is home” during the month of December.

Remember that according to one study, almost two-thirds of people say that they get stressed during the holidays due to a perceived lack of time. If people feel compelled to put in long hours in the office and then take work home with them on top of that, you’re only going to compound a problem.

Instead, be clear that the holidays are a time for friends and family members and barring a few important projects and deadlines, most things can and absolutely should stay in the office.

Embrace the Opportunity For a Little Down Time

Yes, it’s true – you’re about to lose a bunch of business days in a row right at the end of the year because of the one-two punch that is Christmas and New Years.

Yes, you’ll probably have a lot of days cut short all throughout December due to holiday parties and other gatherings. But the fact of the matter is that this isn’t something that you should fear or try to avoid – instead, you should lean into it as much as possible.

Remember that a number of different studies have been conducted over the years that show that when we work a strict 40 hours a week, our productivity actually takes a bit of a dive. People quickly start to feel over-stressed and overwhelmed, which does the exact opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish.

Especially during the holiday season, don’t overlook an opportunity to let people relax, take a little time off and go home early. At the very least, they’ll be primed and ready to go the extra mile when they return.

Never forget that when it comes to productivity during the holiday season, you should always be focused on “quality” and not “quantity.”

These are just a few of the key things that you should consider when keeping everyone motivated before, during, and after the holidays. If at any point you still feel stressed, just remember – the season is going to charge on ahead whether you’re ready for it or not. Soon it will be January and you’ll be ready to take 2019 by storm… until next December, that is.