Success Alert: Stop Multitasking and Stay Focused!

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Posted October 14, 2013 by Jill Vived in On the Ladder

Success Alert: Stay Focused and Stop Multitasking!

Success is on the forefront of every Career Girl’s mind, but what are you really doing to achieve it?

If you’re anything like me, you’re running around every day, every which way: rushing the kids off to school, rushing to the office, rushing home to cook dinner—rush, rush, rush. Both early in your career and later, the demands you feel from trying to get ahead, meeting family obligations, and trying to have a life of your own is a daunting (and exhausting) proposition. The one thing all of us women have in common is a constant quest to be everything to everyone, where multitasking takes front and center stage.

But the newest thinking is that perhaps this ever present jumping from one thing to the next, constantly checking our smartphones, leaping from the phone, to the computer, to the gym—it may not be the path that will successfully lead us to our end goal of success. In fact, all this multitasking may even hinder our success by taking away the opportunity to intensely focus, an essential component in doing our best work. Instead of constantly bouncing from one task to the next, we should actually focus on being focused.

But is it truly possible to set time aside for intense focus in this 24/7 connected world? How do we as women set aside the necessary time to focus without losing our edge, our very ability to navigate this complex world of time commitments, to “have it all”, without wearing our tried-and-true multitasking face at all times?

While it may not be possible to completely unplug our multitasking selves, here are some tips from the experts on infusing our lives with opportunities for focus:

EXPERT TIPS FOR STAYING FOCUSED

Unplug

Resting your brain from the constant rigors of technology is a critical component to focus. Julie Morgenstern, a professional organizer, productivity expert, and published author, recommends “to start and end each day fully unplugged.” Turn off your email, close your social media feeds, and mute your phone. Spend time getting grounded, thoughtfully planning out your day, and deciding where you are going to spend your time. Unplugging, says Morgenstern, allows you to start your day with a sense of accomplishment and control. And who wouldn’t like to feel accomplished from the minute your day starts? I know I would.

Stop Multitasking

In a world where we are constantly compelled to check our phones for the latest Facebook update, urgent work email, or newest LinkedIn connection, all while juggling careers, fun, friends, family, and myriad other distractions and obligations, it is a contradiction of norms to suggest we shouldn’t multi-task. But a recent Stanford study measuring cognitive abilities of high multitaskers in relation to low multitaskers suggests we do just that. Anthony Wagner, one of the studies’ leaders, cites that of the studies’ participants,

High multitaskers were not able to filter out what’s not relevant to their current goal. That failure to filter means they’re slowed down by that irrelevant information.

In today’s competitive age, focusing on the irrelevant means being irrelevant–and that, Career Girls, is a career killer right there.

Rest

Never forget the value of rest. Similar to Morgenstern’s advice to unplug, Dr. Marla Gottschalk, prominent industrial and organizational psychologist, recommends “taking the time to pause, after a period of concentrated focus.”  This pause can be just a short 15-minute walk or listening to music.  Dr. Marla continues,

Taking this time to relax will allow your mind to slow down and process everything you’ve taken in.

With so much to do, and so little time in every day, it is easy to push rest to the backburner, but if you do that, you’ll likely see your career begin to smolder as well.

THE TAKE AWAY?

Incorporating these steps into your everyday life is the first step in breaking the cycle of chronic multitasking. Being cognizant of your brain’s susceptibility to multitasking’s addictive nature and making every effort to set aside time to focus will pay off high dividends as you ascend the career ladder. So don’t feel guilty if you need to leave work promptly at 5:00 on Tuesday to make it to that yoga class that really centers you; you are merely making an investment in your future success.

How about you, Career Girls? How do you find time to focus? Share your tips with us!


About the Author

Jill Vived

Jill Vived is a freelance writer and marketing communications professional currently working as the Director of Marketing for Vivalta, Inc., a recruiting firm specializing in placing finance and accounting professionals in Denver and San Francisco she co-owns with her husband. Working in the search industry has given Jill a distinct perspective on careers and job search that she is excited to share with Career Girls everywhere. When she is not reading up on everything marketing, branding, and career related, Jill spends her time chasing around her two young children, dreaming up DIY crafts, and enjoying the great outdoors.

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