Friday, March 14, 2014

I Decided to Say No to Multitasking

"To do two things at once is to do neither."  Publilius Syrus

"The brain is a lot like a computer. You may have several screens open on your desktop, but you’re able to think about only one at a time."  — William Stixrud, PhD, Neuropsychologist

I have a very stressful job - I'm in IT and work in public safety. I work alone and support 300+ employees. Alone.

I'm working on my 16th year, and my responsibilities have grown exponentially over those years, yet I still work alone. In order to support everyone and get everything done, I consistently work on multiple tasks at the same time. Many times, I find myself remotely connected to two or three computers fixing issues, plus talking on the phone and doing other tasks at my desk, all at the same time. It makes for a very stressful day. 

Since it appears I will never get help, I have decided that I need to do what I can to remove the unnecessary stress from my work day. I can't control the workload, but I can control how I work the workload.

I began thinking about my work days and how I work. I realized that I never, ever finish anything that I start before I start working on something else. It's not something I do on purpose, it's just something that happens. 

I take care of our computers (130+), file server, records management system, cell phones, mobile computers, intranet, and a host of other things. I'm sure you can imagine from that how busy I am. I spend my days stopping what I'm doing in order to help someone with something else. I do it all day long, every single day. In my mind, I think doing this is good customer service. It's not my co-workers' fault that I don't have help, so I don't like to make them wait and I stop what I'm doing to help them.

No more. I decided that I was going to work on one task at a time (monochronic) instead of multitasking (polychronic). So for the last 2 weeks, I have been working on one task or item until I am finished before I go on to the next task. When trouble calls come, I take the details and add them to my list. I work my items in order of priority. I have not deviated from this in 2 weeks. 

I cannot even begin to tell you what a difference it has made. Seriously. HUGE. HUGE. HUGE. I'm getting more things accomplished each day. I'm not forgetting things and making mistakes because I'm connected to more than one computer at a time. On top of that, my stress level has improved because my brain isn't constantly in a state of confusion. Best of all, I'm actually smiling from the inside (real) instead of the outside (fake) these days at work. My days of multitasking at work are finished. Over. Done. 

Do you spend your workdays doing the same thing? If so, you should make some adjustments. We're talking about our health here, and it's a proven fact that stress kills.

If you want to do a little more reading about the ills of multitasking, here are a few links for you.

The Multitasking Mind

How Multitasking Hurts Your Brain (And Your Effectiveness at Work)

What Multitasking Does To Your Brain

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