Multitaskers Take Note: Clearing the Mind for Greater Productivity
By Peter Friis, CEO & Co-Founder, Essio Shower
How are you doing with today’s “To-Do List?” Whipping through a dozen things at once, making great progress? You might want to take a breath: because multitasking is falling out of favor with efficiency experts. Science now tells us that our attention cannot be efficiently divided into a million little pieces. The opposite approach is what’s working: practicing mindful clarity, including breathing-based meditation and the use of essential oils of chamomile, peppermint, nutmeg, bergamot, lavender, and ylang-ylang.
The term “multitasking” itself is a misnomer. What multitaskers are doing, in fact, is rapid serial tasking. This means jumping from task-to-task very rapidly. Neuroscientists and psychologists have documented that switching between complicated tasks reduces effectiveness regarding how well the task is completed, and slows down the overall performance time needed for each of the tasks. Overloaded circuits cause even the brightest folks to under-perform, including kids who watch TV, text, and surf the web while doing homework.
Mindfulness training, which requires the conscious management of attention, now has been proven to improve memory retention and create greater connectivity in many areas of the brain. This means doing one thing at a time.
But once you get into the habit of fragmenting your attention with multiple inputs, it’s a hard habit to break. Current studies illustrate that people today tend to interrupt their own work-flow every 12 minutes or so on average, even if they are not distracted by others. Neurologists suggest that we get a little synaptic “buzz”, a slight jolt of pleasure to the reward-centers of the brain, when we hear an email or text arrive, or receive another form of validation from one of our electronic devices. These interruptions make us feel productive, needed, and powerful. Edward M. Hallowell, author of the bestseller Crazy Busy; Overstretched, Overbooked and About to Snap describes this state as “continuous partial attention”. But the bottom-line shows that constant flitting between activities reduces both the quality of productivity, and slows down the process of getting things done. While enjoying this hyper-stimulated neural “high,” we generally feel that we are flying through mountains of tasks and completing more in less time. But we’re usually wrong. Specifically, multitaskers often lose ground in these areas:
- Filtering – Determining relevance and priority between tasks
- Memory management – Remembering what they have already done and what needs to be done next
- Task-switching – Making a clean jump from one platform to the next
Hallowell’s research and many other contemporary studies point out that our brains and synapses are incapable of doing more than a couple of things at one time, and even this is only possible if the activities are routine and very familiar. Walking and chewing gum at the same time, for instance. If we try to do anything more demanding, we lose both quantity and quality of performance, although we may tell ourselves otherwise.
- Practice staying present in the moment. Specific essential oils used in the formulation of Essio CLEAR, an original, USDA 100% certified organic aromatherapy blend for the shower, help to clear the mind of random thoughts and re-focus mental and physical energies.
- Close down input sources periodically. Banish electronic messaging of all kinds from meetings.
- At home, get in the habit of making and taking phone calls while sitting on the couch, away from your computer. Live dangerously and put your feet up on the coffee table while you converse. This will prevent you from doing anything else. Just talk and listen.
- Consider the idea that not every moment of your life is urgent, or an emergency.
- Recreate your own boundaries. Refrain from checking your email and texts thousands of times a day.
- Write one hand-written note—yes, with a pen, on paper—a day. It can be brief. The endangered art of writing cursive (longhand) is now recognized as an important tool in cognitive development, especially for what is known as functional specialization. According to Psychology Today, brain imaging studies show that writing cursive activates areas of the brain that do not participate in keyboarding. Pausing to write a note, put it in an envelope, address the envelope and put a stamp on it also causes you to slow down, form thoughts, concentrate, and control your fine motor control skills.
Peter is the CEO and co-founder of Essio, a patented, brand-new aromatherapy system for the shower that turns the everyday shower into a spa-like experience. Essio works with virtually any shower and uses patented technology to deliver organic, essential oils into the shower for the first time. Essio has a unified mission of enhancing quality of life through intuitive design and organic ingredients.