In recent years, several studies have suggested that it is actually impossible for the human brain to multitask. Yet we continue to persist in our attempts: every day many of us juggle simultaneous responsibilities at work and an endless to-do list at home, all while managing alerts and messages on multiple devices.
Not only is your brain truly incapable of multitasking, but also trying to multitasking constantly can hinder your Executive Presence. In this post, I discuss how multitasking can weaken your presence and I provide some suggestions for cutting back on this habit.
First, imagine yourself working a room – you walk into a space and instantly feel confident, at ease, and ready to make a great impression. You are prepared to connect with others in a meaningful and sincere manner. With this approach and attitude, you exhibit great presence.
Now imagine yourself trying to work a room while simultaneously sending texts and emails from your smartphone. It’s impossible! Your body language will show that you are more interested in your phone than the situation at hand, and in your distraction you will remain disconnected and isolated from the individuals in the room. In other words, you will have no presence.
Constantly attempting to multitask can hinder other aspects of work life that contribute to your Executive Presence as well. For example, it can impact the effectiveness of your communication. Have you ever tried to work on a task or write an email while talking on the phone? Chances are, all results from this type of multitasking will turn out sloppily. On the phone you will sound distracted, and your task or email may contain careless mistakes. A combination of these elements over time will begin to reflect poorly on your overall presence.
If this is the case, how can you reduce multitasking to improve your Executive Presence? At the pace of today’s corporate culture, it is incredibly difficult to prevent yourself from multitasking. Our working environments and tools are designed for it. However, use this idea as motivation: you will improve your presence as well as become more productive when focusing on a single task at a time.
A few tips for staying focused and directed in your work:
- Start your day focused. Do not wake up and immediately check your email or phone. Instead, leave enough time in the morning to have a quiet moment or a brief walk outside. This can be refreshing and help you to take on one task at a time throughout the day with renewed energy.
- During meetings, leave technology behind. Do not try to catch up on emails when others are leading a meeting. It will show disrespect to your colleagues, and you will not retain any of the information exchanged. Additionally, you will not be able to contribute anything of value if you remain distracted throughout the meeting.
- Allocate set amounts of time to each of your tasks. For example, if you allow yourself one hour to complete a single task, chances are you will be much more productive and efficient in that single hour than if you worked on it throughout the afternoon while getting distracted by other things.
- What are your tactics for staying focused and dedicated to the task at hand? For more on the disadvantages of multitasking, see Time’s “Don’t Multitask: Your Brain Will Thank You” or “Why Multitasking Doesn’t Work” from Forbes.