ISAE MythBusters: Multitasking in the Workplace (and Beyond)

By Ashley Roy

We love to multitask. We talk on the phone while writing an email, or jump from task to task rapidly, fully believing that we are delivering our best work. “I’m great at multitasking”, is a phrase we love to say in both our professional and personal lives.

But are we?

ISAE Strategy Academy opened last month with this very topic, to position our mindset for the rest of the series.

Led by Mary Byers, CAE, author of Race for Relevance, she challenged us to evaluate our productivity when we attempt to multitask through a series of articles and videos.

According to McGill University Psychology Professor Daniel Levitin, switching our focus between multiple tasks depletes chemicals we need to concentrate. This makes us tired, decreases the quality of our work and destroys our ability to focus.

In fact, it will take our brains 20,000 years to evolve enough to handle the current environment and the way were are expected to handle tasks (so give yourself a break).

I know, I know; you probably think you are a multitasking pro, and this doesn’t apply to you. I know I did. So, if you don’t believe me take this Myth of Multitasking Test and see for yourself.

Given that it took me nearly double the time to complete, I declare this myth BUSTED –multitasking is not real.

So what can you do to help avoid this?

  • Block project time on your calendar to discourage meetings and interruptions
  • Take breaks (15-20 mins) throughout the day to unplug and reset
  • Turn off email, instant messenger and app notifications. Only check during designated times.
  • Hold meetings (when possible) without devices around so you can focus on the content and the people in the room.
  • Change up your location – go work in a coffee shop or a library for the day.
This was just one of the takeaways I got from the first Strategy Academy of the year, and I encourage you to take advantage of this great program. If you are interested in furthering your association career, there is still room in the leadership track, so register!
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