How to multi-task effectively

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How do you keep track of all the chores, tasks and obligations in your life every day? Psychologist Dr. Cynthia Green, author of Total Memory Workout, has tips to help you multi-task effectively.

How to multi-task effectively

We are so driven to get more stuff done in a shorter amount of time that we let important tasks fall through the cracks. Learn how to efficiently multi-task by reducing distractions and knowing your limits.

  • Our attention span is limited. Learn to keep track of only what’s important, while avoiding distractions.
  • Learn to focus. When working on a task, resist the urge to respond to every email and return every phone call.
  • Use mental games to train yourself to have a longer attention span. Things like games can help build your attention span.
  • Be organized. Use tools like lists and reminder notes to keep track of everything.
  • Spend time at the end of the day to regroup and reprocess the information.
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STACEY: I’m Stacey Tisdale for howdini.com. Multi-tasking is part of a routine life these days; we’re all so busy. But sometimes in the process of multi-tasking, we forget some of those tasks – they simply fall through the cracks. Well here to help us avoid that, Dr. Cynthia Green, psychologist and author of Total Memory Workout. Thank you so much for joining us.

CYNTHIA: Thank you.

STACEY: A lot of people are focusing on things like mindfulness training, and the practice is to do one thing at a time. So how does the whole notion of multi-tasking play into that?

CYNTHIA: Certainly, one of the things that we can do is learn to focus. If you take your typical office setting, researchers have found in those settings that people are so torn in so many different directions, and so responsive to their emails the phone ringing, that they’re not focused; they’re not doing one thing at a time. And in fact, they have so little time to get a task done, that they feel even more harried because they can’t accomplish anything because of the distractions. Being mindful, or being focused, and training yourself to kind of avoid those distractions, is just to stay in the moment, will allow you to retrain yourself to pay attention.

STACEY: People are proud to be multi-taskers, but is it an unhealthy practice? So you can’t give a hundred percent of your attention to two things at once.

CYNTHIA: Two of the best things we can do, is number one, to train our attention in two ways. One, for most of us who are kind of beset by this kind of multi-tasking, the real challenge is to learn to be still and to be focused, and a lot of techniques – like the one you mentioned on mindfulness or other stress reduction techniques – kind of can help retrain us to be focused on one thing at a time. The second thing, is that sometimes that challenge has shortened our attention span.

STACEY: Right.

CYNTHIA: In other words, we are used to only focusing on shorter periods of time on any one thing. We can train ourselves to expand our attention span by doing exercises that can build attention, and a lot of those exercises are things like games where we have to stay focused to do well. So it’s a combination of those two factors that can be helpful to build attention. Finally, my last tip is to be organized; to think in an orderly and methodical fashion about what we’re trying to do, to use organizational tools such as lists and reminder notes to help keep track of things so that they’re going to be easier for us to remember.

STACEY: And turn off those blackberry’s and cell phones when we’re setting aside that time.

CYNTHIA: Right.

STACEY: Great advice, we’ll give it a shot. Thank you so much for joining us.

CYNTHIA: Thank you.

STACEY: I’m Stacey Tisdale for howdini.com.

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  • Dr. Cynthia R. Green

    Dr. Cynthia R. Green Psychologist, Author Cynthia R. Green, Ph.D. is a nationally recognized expert on memory fitness and brain health. She founded The Memory Enhancement Program at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 1996, and is the author of several self-help books. more about this expert »

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