Corporate wellness insights

Avoid Multitasking to Lower Stress

Posted by Matthew Benton on 03.08.2017

Multitasking Coaching Stress Relief

We’ve blogged before about how mindfulness programs are a new trend in wellness. Many of our clients want to help their employees with stress management, and one of the enemies of mindfulness is multitasking: the misguided idea that you can complete multiple tasks simultaneously. Studies show that it hurts productivity and makes us more stressed, but we do it anyway.

Lydia Dishman, writing for Fast Company, has an interesting take on the perils and how difficult it can be to break the habit. Wellness providers like us should consider training around multitasking (or its opposite, “monotasking”). It degrades productivity and leaves us frazzled.

Dishman spent a week structuring her schedule around completing one task at a time. As a writer, she was amazed how frequently her email or phone distracted her:

I’m not alone, apparently. UC Irvine professor Gloria Mark discovered that workers she and her colleagues observed in 2004 switched off writing an average of every three minutes. In 2012, the screen flip happened in just one minute and 15 seconds. Two years later, workers’ focus on one item dwindled further to 59.5 seconds. I still made my deadlines, but according to Marks, “working faster with interruptions has its cost: People in the interrupted conditions experienced a higher workload, more stress, higher frustration, more time pressure, and effort. So interrupted work may be done faster, but at a price.”No wonder I often felt depleted after pressing “send.”

In the end, Dishman broke the multitasking habit only by setting boundaries for herself. She carefully timed her one-task-only work, moving her phone out of sight.

Most people multitask because they think it helps them get more done, and because they feel they must. As wellness providers, we’re in a position to challenge both assumptions. (And for the record, I only looked at my phone once while writing this blog. I’m learning!)

Image credit: A Multitasking Busy Guy by uberof202 ff

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