More of us are feeling overwhelmed at work – whether it’s the unrelenting emails, longer hours or the feeling we can’t switch off.
But I think there’s another issue at play that’s very much within our control; that we often try to manage too many things at the same time.
Just think about your own behaviour. Do you find yourself answering emails while in a conference call? Do you take your laptop into meetings and pretend to take notes while you’re covertly carrying out some online research? How often do you check your phone for status updates?
It might seem productive to multitask, but it isn’t really. If you are constantly dividing your attention, you’re only partially engaged in multiple activities, and unable to fully concentrate on any one of them.
Recently, I’ve been closing down my email and setting aside some dedicated time for a task. I give myself a deadline and focus on giving that one thing my very best.
But before I even start, I take some time to think about my priorities. Identifying what I should work on first helps me set my focus, and I avoid being distracted by what else I could be doing.
Productivity is not only about how you work but also what you work on. So give some thought to how you can make yourself even better at the one thing you’re best at.
What would that one thing be? And how would you benefit from improving that single thing by just one per cent?
Obviously, this ‘one thing’ is different for each of us. A salesperson might choose to make one more call or visit one more customer a week, while an office-based worker might try to stay a little less distracted.
Sometimes an interruption can be beneficial, of course, but usually when it’s relevant to what you’re working on!
As the saying goes: “You can do anything, but not everything”. We have a finite amount of what psychologists call ‘attentional resource’ – being disciplined in how we use it can help us de-clutter and feel less overwhelmed.
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