Multitasking is a skill many people like to play up. People see the ability to simultaneously juggle a bunch of tasks as a badge of honor, but there’s just one problem: Few people actually do it well.
According to a study by the Journal of Experimental Psychology, multitaskers can see their productivity plummet by as much as 40 percent when switching between tasks. In practice, multitasking isn’t the carefully crafted balancing act some envision it as; it’s actually toggling back and forth between tasks and creating a state of constant frenzy instead of focus.
And in a setting that requires one’s undivided attention — like, say, a meeting — total focus is a necessity.
Multitasking Can Be a Mess
The myth of multitasking has changed the way we work, affecting how we manage individual tasks and even our level of engagement during meetings. For example, look at the way we use technology to keep as many balls in the air as possible. You might use your computer to take notes during a meeting, but the second some message, alert, or email scrolls across your screen, your attention is split, and you’re not contributing to the meeting as you would like to be.
Simply put, your mind isn’t functioning the way it should when it’s in multiple places at once. In fact, research by the Institute of Psychiatry on behalf of Hewlett Packard shows that multitasking while fielding phone calls and emails lowered participants’ IQs by 10 points. So when you get caught saying, “Uh, can you repeat that middle part?” during a meeting because your focus is elsewhere, that means your brain is operating at a third-grade level.
To let go of the myth of multitasking and retrain yourself to be more focused and productive during meetings, try these three things:
1. Forget about FOMO. The fear of missing out is prevalent, particularly amongst youth. Many people are trapped in a mode of clutching their iPhones or looking at their screens constantly to see what’s happening wherever they aren’t currently. There’s a sense that if they aren’t quick and responsive, something life-altering will pass them by — it’s an addictive mindset.
It’s wonderful to be clued in and responsive, both professionally and personally, but being controlled by an irrational fear that you’ll miss out on something amazing isn’t the best way to stay present.
When you enter a meeting, don’t let FOMO creep into your mind. That could mean lessening the temptation to check electronics or leaving them behind altogether. Whatever you do, don’t let what’s going on outside the meeting affect your ability to contribute to it.
2. Turn off your notifications. An eMarketer study notes that 65 percent of U.S. smartphone users utilize social media notifications; website push alerts also remain important, with desktop usage representing nearly 49 percent of global internet use. Notifications can pop up and distract instantaneously, so if you absolutely need a computer or phone to take notes during a meeting, mute them to lessen their effect.
Don’t assume you have the self-control to not be distracted by notifications. Take your presence seriously, respect the people you’re interacting with or listening to, and eliminate this simple but powerful distraction.
3. Utilize technology in the aftermath. Meetings can be boring, but they’re more engaging and effective with the use of good technology. Use Eva (Enterprise Voice AI), Voicera’s innovative platform that’s optimizing the workplace meeting. This AI meeting assistant is equipped with a voice command feature that allows users to tell Eva any action items or minutes to track from a meeting.
Those requests are then sent back to users via email like a post-meeting to-do list for everyone in attendance. This allows team members to participate fully without worrying that vital information will fall through the cracks.
If you’ve trained yourself to multitask, it will take some effort to kick that habit and acquire new ones. But when you’re more focused and present throughout your day, you will enjoy more productive time on individual tasks, more engaging meetings, and better interactions with your team.