By Roxanne Donovan - Wellness
Welcome to the third post in WellAcademic’s four-part series on ways to improve an out-of-sync professional-personal dance—that interplay between the oftentimes competing demands of work and life. The first step identified the problem, and the second step differentiated the professional from the personal. This step is all about implementing efficiencies at home and at work that make life easier. It requires learning two half-steps.
First half-step: Stop multitasking; start monotasking
Many of us believe we are fantastic multitaskers. Unlike mere mortals, we superwomen can simultaneously watch House of Cards and talk on the phone or continuously switch between writing a paper and checking email. Unfortunately, all manner of psychological research suggests we are wrong, wrong, wrong. We just think we’re doing all these things well but are actually slowing down our processing and, thus, our efficiency, particularly if one of the tasks is challenging. Moreover, we won’t accurately remember what we saw, heard, wrote, or read – making our life one big inefficient multitasking blur.
Even when we are not physically doing multiple things, we are busy multitasking mentally. You know you do this if you regularly can’t recall
If you see yourself in the examples above, you are not alone. Many of us are caught in the multitasking shuffle, shortchanging our work AND our connections to others. The good news is change is possible. It just requires insight into when and in what ways you are more likely to fall into the multitasking trap and an intention to default to monotasking—a fancy way of saying doing one thing at a time.
Below are strategies for dealing with some typical multitasking challenges.
Shut off technology
The draw of technology, whether it is internet shopping, social media, texts, or emails, is an efficiency killer. Planning to limit these distractions can be helpful when you want to monotask.
Limit interpersonal interactions
Second half-step: Planning is your friend
Next to multitasking, lack of planning is a main efficiency killer. How can you be efficient if you don’t have any idea what you should be doing and when? The answer is you can’t.
Additionally, and I really hate to say this, you need to plan your personal as well as your professional activities.
If you are a parent and/or have a partner, be especially careful here. We have a tendency to plan for our kids’ and partner’s activities, and try to fit in our own priorities when we have “extra time”…and let’s be honest, there is never any extra time. Keep in mind that the massage you’ve been desperate to get, the doctor’s visit you need to schedule, and the watch battery that needs replacing are just as important to YOU as the report you need to finish for your supervisor, the new sneakers you need to get for your kid, and the dinner party you need to attend for your partner.
This level of planning requires a to-do list that has separate sections for your professional and personal lives. I recommend creating your plans at the beginning of the week—Sunday evenings work best in my house. Then, you can reference the plans each morning and check off what you’ve completed each evening.
Although my partner loves to put his to-do’s on little yellow pads that he leaves in various places around our house, his car, and his office, I use Wunderlist to create my lists and love it. I have also heard great things about todoist and Trello. What I like most about these apps is that you can access them from any device, so totally losing you info is not possible. Hooray for technology!
What to do next?
That’s easy – make a plan, follow the plan, and repeat.
Okay, so maybe it isn’t so easy. In fact, you may have tried planning in the past only to give up after a few weeks/days/hours. I completely understand. I too struggle with planning, because I naturally gravitate toward spontaneity (or at least that is what I tell my partner). What I have learned—and relearn repeatedly when I “forget”—is that my life is an exhausting labyrinth of deadlines, expectations, and challenges, which can be nothing short of overwhelming if I don’t have a plan for each week broken down by day. If your life is similar, I invite you to get and stay on the plan bandwagon.
Some final words about how to create successful and sustainable plans.
Next month’s post focuses on the final step in the professional-personal dance—ritualizing health sustaining practices. As a psychologist, I hold great affection for this step and encourage you to check it out around April 20th.
In peace and solidarity,