Time Efficiency Vs. Multitasking Which is Better and Why?

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The Confessions of a Busy Body…

I am not going to lie to you, I am a busy body. There was a brief period in my freshman year of high-school where I was probably depressed, searching for my new “clique” to survive in and would come home from school, pop open a bag of potato chips and binge on reruns of Full House, Boy Meets World, etc. until my mom would come home from work and I would start doing my homework. I gained weight (not the funniest thing when you are 14 years old) and was pretty darn miserable.

When I tried out for the soccer team in the spring, I was in a different place mentally, but being active just made me feel good. For the first time in months I had energy and wanted to do well at something (even though soccer was not my forte… I have horrible feet coordination, am painfully slow, and TBH totally afraid of getting hit in the face by the soccer ball). I felt confidence and acceptance that I hadn’t in what felt like a long time. So I made the decision then and there that I would strive to get off the couch and live a life that made me feel satisfied.

Fast forward through my 20s and into my 30s and I have remained pretty busy with goals. Whether it be through my job— working in nonprofits I would challenge myself to stay as busy as possible at work, always looking for new grants, exploring ways to improve the program, or reaching out for community connections or in my own exercise routines, I really just don’t like to sit still. If I am being perfectly honest, it kind of stresses me out and I don’t sleep very well.

This year as I am taking on a new role as a nurse and running my website/working with brands, I have started reflecting on if I am a true “multitasker” or if I am just efficient at scheduling and completing tasks quickly. I hear and see on resumes all the time “multitasker” listed as a skill, but what makes you a multitasker? Being able to do multiple tasks at once? In my experience when I am hoping between two different activities like typing up this blog post and going down the social media rabbit hole or texting my husband, it takes me twice as long. Or at work if I interrupt myself during a task to start another one, both are not done to the level of expertise that I would like them to be done and I am often distracted.

However! When I am able to organize my thoughts aka to-do list and decide which should be done first and which would be the quickest and easiest to do, I am able to breeze through them and 9 times out of 10 its to the level that I am able to feel proud of, without the lingering worry that I forgot to do something or it wasn’t done well.

So which is better? I know I have friends that swear that they are proficient multitaskers that can do tons of stuff at the same time… maybe I just don’t fit into this mold?

OF COURSE I DID SOME RESEARCH….

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And it may come as a surprise but there has actually been quite a bit of studies done on this very topic! And an overwhelming amount of the research has found that multitasking not only “cost efficiency, but raises risks”. The American Psychological Association found that doing multiple task will actually take a toll on productivity as well as put other’s around you at risk. This is the whole “no texting while driving” thing. You are not giving you 100% attention to the task at hand, thus you are distracted and mistakes/accidents can happen. They also state that it does in fact take longer to complete any given task when you constantly are interrupting it in order to work on the other task.

So Tune In, Not Out.

What does this mean for us busy bodies? We may want to be multitaskers, but in reality, we may be very good at being efficient in planning and executing the tasks in front of us for the day. There are so. many. distractions. in our world— I am sure you can think of a time that your significant other, friend, or family member replied “uh-huh sure” to a request while scrolling through something on their phone (or you did it to the other person…*gasp*… I am totally guilty of this) only to find out they heard nothing you said? OR think about a time that you were pulled away from something at work, because of a pressing question/need and it was impossible to pick up where you left off? This is what multitasking really is. Its a bunch of distraction from what truly needs to be done.

Crap. We aren’t good at multitasking, so now what?

Want to know ways you can get through your day more efficiently, with more responsibilities, and juggling more items? First things first… Make a “to-do” list. Write it out either on your phone or a slip of paper or in your planner and cross things off as you finish them (you have no idea how great this feels if you’ve never done it). Next, decide what is most pressing. What are others waiting on? How will one task hold up the rest if it’s not done first? Where are your deadlines? If you are in nursing, is this going to affect the health outcome of one of your patients? (I know I sound like all the NCLEX prep questions now).

From here, get to work. put your phone on vibrate, turn off i-chat and get to business. Take breaks every 30-45 minutes if you need to in order to not burn out and check in, but this doesn’t mean hop on social media (LOL) you can get up, walk around, do a little desk yoga to refocus yourself to keep going. Doing 5-10 minutes of exercise, whether its walking, desk yoga, jumping jacks will help you beat any 3 pm slump better than any coffee can!

So. Which is better?

Time efficiency is better. Instead of writing “multitasker” on your resume, I would recommend “efficient at managing tasks in a timely manner". And then blow the socks off your new boss. Until then, live joyful!

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