Tips & tricks on how to get your never ending task without sacrificing work performance.
Neurological Impossibility of Multitasking
Multitasking could be a challenge to tame in the workplace as it allows workers to complete more tasks and still maintain their performance. Unfortunately, cognitive researches posits that the human brain has a limited working memory, in which our current activities are processed by our brain. Incoming information are filtered－based on perceived values of each stimulus－and will only be processed by the working memory if the particular stimulus is deemed important or crucial enough at a particular time and context.
With limited cognitive resources, processing information is even harder when individuals are exposed to different types of stimulus simultaneously. Thus, multitasking might result in cognitive overload, and higher errors / lower performances, due to insufficient attention paid to each and every task. Cognitive researches suggested that instead of true multitasking, most individuals are simply good at switching their attention in completing one task after or between the others.
The Rare ‘Supertasksers’
However, a British researcher, David Strayer, found some outliers over thousands of individuals tested all over Britain. A girl was able to suggest that certain group of individuals might possess the predisposition that enable them to multitask without significant decrease of performance. However, after completing given tasks simultaneously, she reported to experience a headache for the remainder time of that day. This suggested that, although the ‘supertasker’ was able to multitask without sacrificing performance, she might experience cognitive overload which resulted in physical pain. Strayer suggested that the amount of people who might be labeled supertaskers is very low, a single digit out of a couple thousands, a result of individuals’ genetic disposition.
Here are some tips on how to multitask ‘better’:
1. Less Stimulus. Focus on what actually matters, skimming through is somewhat acceptable. (You don’t have to go through every single thing if you get the key points!)
2. Practice / Set it as a Habit. Create a routine, check if it’s working for at least one to two weeks. Set the routine into a habit by consciously doing the routine step by step for at least 1 month.
3. Set Priorities. Always cross check with target and deadlines, (re)prioritize tasks in hand.
4. Take Breaks. The span of full attention is about 20 minutes. Take mini breaks to avoid a burnout.
5. Review New Information. After learning, take a second and step back to process the new information by either re-writing it down, re-read or try to recall point per point. (Always take notes during meetings!)
6. Planning. Always plan ahead and try to update your to-do list as you go. Keep your to-do list visible. Plan your day or week by a tasks list. Check out tips & tricks on planning.
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