Saturday, October 18, 2014

More Multi-tasking, Less Productivity

Have you ever written or seen a job description with the following words:

"Must be able to work in a fast-paced environment.  Must be able to multi-task."  ??

If you have ever looked for a job or promoted a job opening, you have very likely seen something like this.  I have even written it myself... it was many years ago.  These statements are problematic for two reasons.

1) Aren't all work environments 'fast-paced'?
2) Multi-tasking is actually impossible, so when asking someone to multi-task, aren't you really asking them to make more mistakes, be more stressed, and get less done?

Fast-pasted work environment

Fast-paced, hectic, busy, flat-out, crazy, chaotic, messy... the list goes on.  I have not seen a work environment that couldn't be described with one of these words.  Telling a candidate they must be able to work in that kind of environment sets the stage for stress before they even begin working.

It is true that if the culture is fast and hectic, the person working in it must be able to work in it.  However, slowing down is actually the best way to handle a fast pace.  So what if we began using words like, "must be able to slow down in order to effectively manage the work day," or "it is an asset to be able to address stressful situations in a calm manner?"

Because, really... if your employees do not have the ability to calm down in a fast-paced situation, they won't be effective at their jobs.


Our brains can't multi-task.  Our brains are actually switching from one task to another, not focusing on more than one task at a time.  This leads to lack of attention, errors, and increasing stress on the individual.  Some researchers say that productivity is reduced by about 40% when trying to multi-task!

Distractions in society and workplaces are producing a loss of the ability to pay attention.  And it's costing our organizations time and money and talent.

So what if we changed the idea of "must be able to multi-task" to "must be able to focus?"  And what if organizations implemented training programs to help their employees and managers and leaders build their focusing skills?

Mindfulness training helps people calm down and get focus.  The only two purposes of mindful meditation are in fact concentration and awareness... or attention and meta-attention (awareness of paying attention).  All of the other benefits are spin-off outcomes (and they are all pretty awesome!).

Get Started

Here are few simple tips to begin growing mindfulness amongst your employees without having to hire an outside facilitator (yes, like me:):

  1. Get educated and educate your team on the detrimental effects of always rushing and multi-tasking. Join groups on social media (join Pomroy Harmony & Wellness, Going OmSearch Inside Yourself or search for others) for free resources and information.
  2. Give your team the autonomy to create pauses throughout their day to simply sit for a few minutes and do nothing or meditate or go outside for a breath of fresh air or do a few yoga stretches.
  3. Tell your team to create a reminder for themselves to stop and breathe every hour.  This is a mindful breath and a simple deep breath in and then out calms the mind and helps bring the person to the present moment.  The breath in activates the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the fight, flight, or freeze responses, and the breath out activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for physiological responses when relaxing and calming.  So try to breathe in for 4 counts and out for 8 counts, and the net effect is relaxation and calm.
Try it on.  There is no evidence that this stuff is not good for you... and there is lots of evidence that it is good for you.  So why not?

Let me know how it goes.....