July 18, 2004
Multi-Tasking is a Good Thing....Focused Multi-Tasking is Better
The ability to focus is an essential to achieving success in all we do. In fact, a study done at the University of Michigan suggests that chronic task juggling may be linked to short-term memory loss
(http://search.msu.edu:8080/msusearch/?q=Studies%20Short-Term%20Memory . Joseph Mancusi, Ph.D., president of the Center for Organizational Excellence ( http://www.centerforexcellence.net ) tells us that “multi-tasking interferes with the creation of memory” .
We all do it! Multi-tasking is a good thing - in fact, it's an essential skill today. But it's also a perennial problem for small businesses and creative people. We're busy about too many things. Sadly, the busier we get the behinder we get. Undisciplined multi-tasking leads to scattering of energy, diffused effectiveness and unfinished business.
If you feel like you're fighting a losing battle, don't despair. Simplify! Focus!
1. Use your computer as it was intended. Computers are not just glorified typewriters. They're powerful tools capable of doing countless mundane tasks. It may take some time to set up your computer correctly, but once it's done, it's done. And you'll see a marked increase in your productivity.
For example, let the machine automatically delete those specific messages that you've consistently deleted for the last six months. This goes beyond spam blocking. It's getting rid of email that you know you always get and you delete every time you get it. Then, set your email up so that incoming mail you do want and need is automatically sorted into folders. Instead of sifting through each email manually, let the machine do it. Set the rules for your computer so you can focus your attention on the messages and tasks at hand in context. Set your email to save your responses with the original you're responding to rather than in the "sent folder".
NOTE: Rethink, your use of email...It's really not that different than your mailbox or your telephone. It's there for your convenience.
2. Set up -- and use -- folders copiously for your own work. Set them up according to the way you think and according to the natural work flow of your business. Organized files structure information and make it much easier to keep your thoughts focused.
3. Use those search engines -- both online and within your own computer -- efficiently. Search for 5-6 word phrases (or even longer ones). For serious research start with those sites most likely to give you definitive information -- Government, Library and University sites, for example -- rather than those that are sales focused.
NOTE: Surfing from site to site without spending time to, at least, skim through the sites links is counter-productive. It's a time killer. Headlines and sound bytes are great for getting our attention -- but they can't possibly give us a comprehensive view or the unbiased information we need to complete an immediate task.
4. Clean off that desktop! When we worked with paper, we learned that filing away paper and keeping the tops of our desks clear of clutter was a much more efficient way to get work done. Computers are no different. Too many open windows, keeps us disorganized and increases the risk of lost work. Open the windows you need -- and even work between 4-5 open windows -- but, be sure to close those that don't
apply to the task at hand. Unrelated open windows are very distracting to our subconscious.
5. Concentrated thought requires an environment that fosters concentration. Limit outside influences. Music, for example, can aid work. But try listening to pure music -- classical, jazz and instrumental work -- lyrics frequently intrude on your thought processes. Avoid having a TV on in your work area...it is a multi-sensory activity that distracts eyes, ears and emotions from the task at hand.
MURPHY'S LAWS OF COMPUTING
1. When computing, whatever happens, behave as though you meant it to happen.
2. When you get to the point where you really understand your computer, it's probably obsolete.
3. The first place to look for information is in the section of the manual where you least expect to find it.
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(C) Joan-Marie Moss, July 18, 2004
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