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                     September Organizing Tips


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                                           Multitasking Mania


I was at a NAPO organizing conference this spring and one of the sessions I attended was called Multitasking Makes You Stupid. We’ve all heard the competing schools of thought as to whether it makes us more productive or whether it’s detrimental. Well, the science is in and it’s very interesting! So I’ll share what I learned and let you decide whether multitasking is helping or harming you in your ability to stay organized. MRI’s of peoples brains during multitasking shows a major traffic jam in your brain. The result is that we lose 10 points of our IQ when we’re multitasking, which is the same effect of losing a night’s sleep, and amazingly twice the drop of what people lose after smoking marijuana. So, is it any surprise that you forget to grab the grocery list on the way out the door when you’ve been busy helping the kids get ready for school?


Another interesting thing I learned is that our perceived ability to multitask is inversely related to our actual ability to multitask. Even more striking is that even though we think we’re more productive, tackling a to-do can take us 40% longer if we’re multitasking at the time. The presenter brought this point home by having us conduct an exercise. We had to do two rounds of 30 3rd grade math problems. In the first round, we had to do the math problems while also listening to her talk and try to remember the details of what she was saying. The round where I was multitasking by listening to her talk at the same time I was doing the math problems took me 69 seconds to complete and the round where I could focus solely on the math problems took me 40 seconds. In addition, I got some of the details wrong about what she was saying while I was doing the math. So if you think you’ll be more productive by paying bills online while you’re helping your kids with their homework, you might want to think again.


If you’re convinced you need to focus more on one thing at a time, here are some strategies for the future. Number 1 is removing shiny objects! When you have an important project that needs to get completed, remove yourself to a quiet spot like a conference room at work, and leave your phone behind on your desk so you’re not tempted to respond to that Facebook friend request and then get sucked into 20 minutes of scrolling through your feed. Number 2 is use a timer and cluster like tasks together. Don’t go online to pay one bill that’s due and then find yourself shopping on Amazon. Set a timer for 30 minutes, pay all your credit card bills at once even if they’re not due, and when the timer goes off, close the laptop and move on to something else. Finally, block off time on your schedule to take care of to-do’s AND honor that time. Many of us can be good at establishing a plan, but then will stop what we're doing to take a phone call, and then respond to an email, and find that our original task never gets finished.