Host, Megan Spicer, and Partner Jaime Staley discuss a very debatable topic, multitasking. Listen along while they weigh the pros and cons and dive into the discussion of if multitasking is killing your productivity.
Megan and Jaime discuss the effects of anxiety, stress, and mental health. They provide advice on how to limit multitasking and enhance multitasking skills. Additionally, they offer strategies for improving team productivity.
What we cover in this episode:
- 03:29 – Operating Under Stress
- 07:30 – The Pros of Multitasking
- 15:30 – The Cons of Multitasking
- 22:00 – Taking Action
- 27:26 – Setting the Boundaries
Operating Under Stress
Operating in stressful situations in nothing new to business owners, but this skill didn’t just pop up overnight. Studies have shown that your body can adapt to stressful situations and environments. It can become so familiar that it can feel like there is no other way to operate. “It’s just like this addiction that our body gets used to operating in, just like high stress and cortisol” and it almost feels like you have to constantly be operating under this feeling Megan states.
“So much pressure in our society and as a culture to constantly be productive and to constantly be doing something or making the most of your time or being a better person, be the best you. And it’s just like you want to try to fill those hours with something..” and that is not always a good thing.
Jaime’s family enjoys having lazy Sundays. They relax and don’t do any of the tasks they must complete. Although it may seem counterintuitive, it makes her more productive the next day.
Going back to the saying, don’t confuse motion with progress because you can run in place all day. Just because your calendar is full, doesn’t mean you are being productive. Sometimes you have to be unproductive and rest, in order to be the most productive. The list to always do things will never go away, kind of like taxes.
The Pros of Multitasking
When it comes to the times that you are unable to avoid multitasking or you choose to multitask, it is good to try to make it efficient. Jaime talks about ways to help avoid the instinct to always multitask if it isn’t necessary. “Being kind of flexible… you can be efficient and focused and still get things done and be productive without having to multitask… maybe it’s just being more focused, being more efficient with your time”.
Eliminating multitasking from your life as a business owner doesn’t ever seem like an option though, whether you are good at multitasking or not. There are some cases where it is needed and it can be used. This is why you have to find ways on how to get better at multitasking. If you are trying to get in 20 minutes everyday of self development but you know you have laundry to fold or dishes to wash; listening to your podcast and doing these time consuming chores can be a productive way to utilize your time.
As much as it is nice to avoid multitasking, there is a time and place for it. One of the pros to multitasking can be saving time in certain situations. For example, if you are hosting a meeting and are in charge of taking down the minutes. Instead of sitting through the event, recording it and then going back to your office to listen to the recording and type up or write down minutes, you can type up the minutes as the meeting is going on.
Increasing Brain Power
“ It (multitasking) helps to increase your brain power… if you’re like kind of keeping active and thinking about things and engaged, it can really help build your mental stamina to be able to bounce kind of back and forth.” Developing your brain to become accustomed and comfortable to this type of activity is another option on how to get better at multitasking overtime. This can be useful for the times that you do need to multitask, as a business owner, a waitress or even as a mom or dad.
Multitasking is utilized in demanding, high stress environments. With these environments comes issues and experiences that can help you build up an important component to have as a business owner, resilience. Being able to bounce back and forth quickly and function in a fast paced environment comes in handy when you are running a business or even a family.
The Cons of Multitasking
Like most things, if there is a light side there is also a dark side. Switching back and forth, trying to do multiple things at the same time, and trying to do it all in a certain time frame while doing it perfectly can take a toll on your mind and body. Being more intentional with your time can help alleviate some of this mental and physical stresses but it won’t take it away.
“I think mental health is important to consider here. Especially today in this day and age we have a lot of mental health issues on the heels of 2020 and Covid… There’s just a lot of impact from that. But just trying to multitask a lot… you really need to take that step back.” Jaime also talks about how a lot of this pressure can come from internally instead of externally.
As business owners, we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to have the best product, service, prices, atmosphere, staff and the list can go on and on. Feeling burdened with these leads to stress and anxiety that isn’t good for your mental state and ultimately isn’t productive for your business either.
The Cost of Interrupted Work: More Speed and Stress- Study
“A study: The Cost of Interrupted Work: More Speed and Stress by UC Irvine and Humboldt University, they had really interesting findings. Our first instinct is, oh gosh, well, multitasking probably takes us more time. In the end, they seemed to kind of debunk that a little bit, saying actually, when we did a study, time wasn’t as big of a factor, but what was a big factor was the additional stress of the workload, more frustration, more pressure, and time pressure,and more effort you had to exert to be able to multitask.”
The study conducted some people being interrupted and observing how they handled this. This showed that multitasking doesn’t really stop you from getting the work done in a timely manner but instead there is a bigger effect on the feelings that they had trying to get the tasks done under the pressure and stress of being interrupted.
Avoiding the interruptions that lead to the stressful and anxious feelings that come from having to multitask may never go away, but they can be reduced. It starts with the leadership of the company. Megan talks about shifts that happen to avoid these feelings and how to improve team productivity.
“I think that’s where I’ve seen the shift to in workplaces, many of them, PJs included, where the culture and the communication works against that to give more grace. You know, like we understand that things are gonna happen, that interruptions come up, and we don’t want that stress on you, so let’s figure out how we can better prioritize, how we can better put our work days together to avoid things like this happening.”
Actions that companies can take to help reduce these feelings for their employees and ultimately lead to long term success are collaborating, prioritizing, communicating, structuring your days efficiently and effectively. Making sure that boundaries are being set for working hours and projects, taking intentional breaks and being more intentional with your time, your employees time and your business.
Setting the Boundaries
Without boundaries life would truly be limitless. This can be a good thing at times, but when it comes to your business and your mental health, limitless may not always be the best mode to be in. Setting your boundaries whether it be your work hours or your personal time, can help with reducing the times you need to multitask.
For example, rushing to eat your lunch or skipping lunch everyday will catch up to you and not in a good way. Is the extra 30 minutes you spent typing emails instead of eating really a better option at the end of the day? Probably not. Yes sometimes it has to be done, but not all the time. Taking time away from yourself and your health shouldn’t be the answer to not multitasking and shouldn’t be the way you multitask when you need to.
“You need to treat those things for yourself and those breaks for yourself with the same level of priority that you treat things for other people. So I think that’s important too, in setting boundaries and making sure that you’re setting the same expectation for yourself, that you hold yourself to, for others.”
At the end of the day the list of things to do for yourself, your family and your business never goes away. This list also won’t always get done without being able to multitask to some degree. We know you can’t and shouldn’t eliminate multitasking and saying to not multitask is a lot easier said than done. However, making sure you are weighing the pros and cons for the situations in which you do choose to multitask, is the take away.