Have you ever tried it?
Life is so busy that the ability to multitask, it seems, is essential to survival in the fast-paced world we live in.
For some reason, “staying busy” is now the accepted cultural standard of industriousness. But busy does not mean productive and it most certainly does not mean happy.
I know you have no time, but pause for a second and consider how productive your life actually is, or how impactful or rewarding your efforts are, or how happy you are with your life. If you feel like time is constantly slipping away from you, then you are not alone my friend.
At one point, my days could be described in one word—chaotic.
My evenings were like a circus, constantly juggling making dinner, helping with homework, sending emails, checking social media, getting my daughter bathed and ready for bed, prepping lunches or extracurricular necessities for tomorrow, filling my husband in on the days events, trying to remember if I paid the water bill, all to end up in bed with my mind still running full steam, after failing to get just a few minutes of quiet to myself, let alone spend any time enjoying the family that I worked so hard for.
I don’t know about you, but my days all meshed together. I was left feeling drained and wondering, what exactly was I running so hard and so fast on this never-ending hamster wheel for, exactly?
I was unhappy, my husband was unhappy, and we were missing out on our daughter’s childhood. So, we resolved to make some changes so that we could start enjoying life again, and finally fulfill a few lifelong dreams.
I decided to take back my life, while becoming more productive.
How did I do it?
After some research, trial and error, and a few failed attempts, I found success with these hard-earned lessons, tips and tricks for increasing productivity, reducing stress and gaining more leisure time.
The Myth of Multitasking
These days it seems that a person’s worth is dictated by their level of busyness, how many demands they have on their time, and their ability to multitask. However, this culture of multitasking is a relatively new phenomenon.
No, I am not saying the ability to simultaneously manage or fulfill tasks is new, but I am saying that our daily reliance on, and increased value on the ability of an individual to multitask is a growing generational trend. In fact, research supports this, with surveys showing that younger generations report more time spent multitasking than previous generations. (3)
With such importance and value placed on our ability to multitask, we tend to continually try to accomplish multiple tasks simultaneously because it creates the illusion of productivity.
But in actuality, we really just experience role overload. (1)
When we experience role overload, it creates a fragmentation of time and increases feeling of pressure and levels of frustration, thus increasing our stress levels. Sociologist John Robinson says his research has shown that Americans today feel as if they are working harder than previous generations, but the average number of hours spent working each week have not changed. (1)
Additionally, research shows that multitasking increases your level of distraction and impairs our ability to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information. (1) To increase our productivity, we should really be focusing on completing tasks individually and sequentially. (2)
If multitasking is on the rise and is generationally relevant, then where did this new phenomenon come from?
The Role of Technology
Technology is a tricky beast.
It can consume seemingly all your time, or it can help you to save time and increase efficiency. It all depends on how you choose to use it.
If you use technology to stay connected through social media, email and text then it is likely more of a distraction in your life. Using technology in this way creates more opportunities and even the necessity to multitask. However, allowing technology to creep into your life in this way can lead to spending hours each day engaged in activities that are unproductive and, in fact, can increase the stress in your life.
When we engage in social media we tend to judge and compare our lives to those of family, friends and even strangers. This comparison can lead us to feelings of inadequacy, failure and jealousy, thus increasing our levels of overall stress.
On the flip side, you can utilize the tools that technology offers to increase efficiency and even reduce stress, if handled properly. For example, setting reminders, taking notes and employing useful apps can reduce your time spent on other various tasks, reduce worry, and increase the productivity of your time management. (4)
With an increased awareness of our tendencies to multitask and our utilization of technology, we enter the strategy to take back our time so that we may accomplish our goals and dreams.
Step 1: Evaluation
The first step to having more leisure time and fulfilling your dreams, is to consider how you spend your time now.
What do you accomplish in a day and what do you wish you had more time for? Identify where you lose time and be willing and committed to making a change and scheduling your time differently.
Step 2: Goal Setting
After you have an idea of how you currently spend your time, you should set goals for how you want to spend your time over the course of a day, week or month. This includes setting goals for both work and leisure time. When setting goals for your leisure time be sure to write down what you hope to do during that time, just writing “free time” makes it easy to lose or get distracted.
After setting your goals, write out a detailed plan of action or schedule. You should consolidate and eliminate activities that rank as a low priority and, at times, you will just have to say no to people to stay on track.
Step 3: Make It a Habit
Once your new schedule is complete, make it a habit. If you consistently perform your highest priorities, they will become habits. Even if it is a little difficult in the beginning, remember what your goals are so that you can stay positive and motivated. Establishing new habits will create efficiency and leave fewer decisions to be made, leaving no room for decision fatigue. (1)
Step 4: Guidelines to Help You Stay on Track
- Write things down, make lists, create reminders. By having your thoughts, and activities written down will help you to maintain organization and reduce worry.
- Narrow your focus and try single-tasking. Studies show that we are most productive when we perform tasks in a singular and sequential way rather than dividing our time and multitasking. (1)
- Be honest with yourself and be decisive. Try following the OHIO model by Only Handling It Once. Don’t waste your valuable time by thinking about or considering options throughout the day, instead dedicate yourself to exploring options and then make a decision the first time. (1)
- Utilize the work-rest model for maximizing your productivity. Creating periods of work and rest allows for our best and most creative thinking.
- Unplug! Schedule time to look at emails, social media or research on your phone, tablet or computer, then set them aside and get down to your regularly scheduled programming.
Step 5: Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor
Enjoy your newly found leisure time to do whatever it is you desire!
Maybe you’ll run a marathon, start a new business endeavor, enjoy some you time or finally get to spend time with your family. Whatever it may be, enjoy it because these are the things that make life worth living.
One thing you can be sure of is that life is dynamic and ever-changing, so a little re-evaluation of your priorities, time, and schedule is a good thing from time to time.
While restructuring your priorities and your life may seem like a daunting task, it is well worth the effort. By utilizing this model, my husband and I were both able to make major career changes, move to a new city, build a healthier lifestyle and, most importantly, spend time every day enjoying our family.
If we did it, you can too. Stop running on that hamster wheel and start reorganizing your life, so that you too can fulfill your dreams for a better way of life.
(1) Barker, E. (2014, May 14). The 7 secrets to getting more leisure time, according to science. Retrieved May 9, 2017, from http://theweek.com/articles/447404/7-secrets-getting-more-leisure-time-according-science
(2) Buser, T. & Peter, N. Exp Econ (2012) 15: 641. doi:10.1007/s10683-012-9318-8 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10683-012-9318-8
(3) Carrier, L. M., et al. (march 2009). Multitasking across generations: Multitasking choices and difficulty ratings in three generations of Americans [Abstract].Computers in Human Behavior,25(2), 483-489. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2008.10.012
(4) Offer, S. & Schneider, B. (2015). Multitasking Among Working Families: A Strategy for Dealing with the Time Squeeze. Christensen & Schneider (Eds.), Workplace Flexibility: Realigning 20th-Century Jobs for a 21st-Century Workforce. (pp. 43-56). Retrieved from https://books.google.com/