A few weeks ago, while I was online booking a business trip, my sister called me. I answered the call and continued to book my ticket, as we talked. Once the ticket was booked, I got the confirmation email from JetBlue and filed it away.
Fast-forward 3 weeks. Yesterday, I was booking the hotel for the same trip and pulled up the email to confirm the dates. To my surprise, I realized that I had accidentally booked my return for one day later than I intended.
Thankfully, I called JetBlue and their wonderful customer service agent, Susan, was able to help me fix my mistake without charging me the $150 fee. However, the ticket prices had gone up, and I had to pay the difference. Altogether, this mistake cost me $60 and 1 hour of lost productivity. Definitely the most expensive call from my sister I ever answered.
Multitasking is something that we all do these days. Checking email while in a meeting, texting while on the phone and reading this article while watching TV. By doing multiple things at once, we think we are saving time. The truth is that our brains cannot fully focus when multitasking, so we take longer to complete tasks and are predisposed to error.
A New York Times article states, “Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes,” said David E. Meyer, a cognitive scientist and director of the Brain, Cognition and Action Laboratory at the University of Michigan. “Disruptions and interruptions are a bad deal from the standpoint of our ability to process information.”
Here are three ways you can stop multitasking:
1. Use Choice Management
When you are trying to listen to your voice mail while reading your e-mail, or reading other materials during meetings, multitasking is working against you. Instead, you need to identify the priorities, the tasks, the important things you need to work on, and work on them one at a time. Again, time management isn’t about doing more things; it’s about doing more of the important things.
Duo-tasking means you start a task and put it into action while you do something else. You can delegate a task to someone who completes it while you work on something else. When you duo-task, your focus is not on switching back and forth; you just set one task in motion as you’re working on another task. There’s no lack of focus, so there is no risk involved. You’re setting a task in motion while you concentrate and work on something else.
3. Be Mindful
A recent Fast Company article describes mindfulness as the antidote to multitasking. It states, “Mindfulness meditation helps you become more aware of unawareness. It’s developing a sense for when you’ve gotten distracted from the task at hand–which will inevitably happen–and nudging it back in place. The work of mindfulness isn’t to never get distracted, since that’s always going to happen. Instead, it’s about recognizing that the meandering has occurred and returning to the task at hand–thereby “filtering out” the irrelevant info.”
Multitasking can increase stress, cause mistakes and waste our time and money. It can even be life threatening. Starting today, make the commitment to stop multitasking. Instead, prioritize and focus on the task at hand.