How to Prioritize
Return to Fact: Multitasking Is Counterproductive.

Fact: Multitasking Is Counterproductive.

If ineffective, exhausting multitasking has caused you to fall behind at work, use these strategies to truly focus — and get back your mojo on the job.

8 Comments: Fact: Multitasking Is Counterproductive.

  1. Thanks so much, I love that you have a print icon here because i read so much better in print (love your magazine by the way). I am printing this now to read and implement before work. I work nights from 3PM to 11PM, and my husband workds days. I’m the one with sever ADHD (think, of the typical “dad left with the kids, oh no” scenario and replace it with mom instead). I also work from home now (helpful, because I used to have to work until 1AM) and get up with the kids in the morning (should be around 7am, but really closer to 7:30am) and really have to work to balance Me/Home/Family/Work, as there is no true transition time between them UNLESS I SCHEDULE IT! Sometimes my hyperfocus gets in the way and I do home things during work that I really should do before/after, or at least at my scheduled breaks (I Have to/should be at my desk for the full shift, except when I have my 15 minute scheduled break and my 30 minute scheduled lunch/dinner break). Hopefully this will help me both at work and at home!

  2. What about when the situation is beyond your control to remove distractions? I share an office with my boss — no cubicle, no partition, nothing. She is constantly interrupting me to ask me questions or give me on-the-fly tasks so I can never get to a point of focus, and when I do, I get interrupted and totally derailed.

    It’s so exhausting that by Wednesday I’m not capable of much more than slumping on the couch and crying when I get home. It details my personal life so much! I’m too mentally exhausted to do anything! My doc has even upped my stimulant, added a third daily dose and a supplemental non-stimulant and I don’t know what to do. Talking to her doesn’t help. She just reverts back after a few days and I can’t leave my job because I need the benefits and don’t have a degree.

    1. I’m sorry that you are finding yourself in a ‘no win’ situation, especially when it feels like the pros slightly outweigh the cons.

      And yet, you still make your post in frustration pleading for the possibility of another way out.

      What I am going to say next may not go over well with you, but I hope you will take heart and see that I am trying to have your best interest in mind. With that out of the way…

      I sense that there is a deeper issue at play here that you are not admitting to or don’t realize. You are not owning the situation you are in.

      YOU chose to be in that distraction filled black hole. Not your boss, not your friends….YOU.

      Want out? Here’s my two cents.

      Another man with ADHD named Ryder Carroll went through a similar situation as you. He referred to it as his ‘Dragon’. A beast that always stared him down and sucked the life energy out of him day in and day out filling his life with hopelessness.

      Long story short, he did eventually become victorious, left that job, and went onto be the guy that invented the Bullet Journal.

      But it all started when he decided to own his situation….only then could he give himself permission to begin the hard work of digging his way out of it.

      Of course, I am inferring that you try setting up your own bullet journal and also read or listen to Ryder’s book ‘The Bullet Journal Method’. From there, he will go further in detail into how his story developed as well as the philosophies he has integrated into his life and the system he created.

      It’s changed my life and more importantly my ATTITUDE towards life in ways I didn’t think was possible.

      I wish you well. Safe travels.

    2. I understand your situation, though my experience at the office was slightly different the outcomes were similar… constant distractions in an ‘open office plan’ and interruptions from boss/colleagues. Don’t know if these small suggestions will be helpful in your context, when obviously you are dealing with a big problem…

      Is there ever a time when she’s not there, e.g lunch hour, meetings, travel/days off? Maybe you can use those times, even 15-30 minute chunks of time, to switch to a task requiring focus.

      And break down those big tasks into smaller segments, maybe 20-30 minutes of work? So you have a section short enough to work on in a brief time period but enough that you can actually accomplish a part of the work.

      Can you ever leave your desk, maybe take your work to a conference room, employee lounge, library, cafeteria, empty office? Even just for one or two 30 minute focus sessions each day? Ideally in the morning, before your attention gets sucked up by the day!

      How about earphones? Could you put on a headset & white noise on your computer while you focus on a task for a little while? Maybe even tell your boss “I’m going to put on headphones for just 30 minutes to focus on making headway on that report you need me to finish” (or, whatever is relevant in your situation).

      When we moved to an open office floorplan (I believe this is what triggered my own work-related ADD) all of us out in the “pool,” as I called it, started wearing headsets. It was a useful visual sign to others that someone is trying to focus. It’s harder to interrupt someone when you have to make them remove headset!

      Maybe this is too much to ask 😨 but… when she asks you to do little, supposedly “quick” tasks, could you ask her to prioritize that vs your other work, e.g. diplomatically say something like “Sure, I can do that… Can I add it to my to-do list for after I finish your expense report, maybe in one hour? Or do you need me to put the report aside and do this right now?” It’s one of those ‘yes, but…’ strategies, so you’re not actually saying ‘no’ but trying to ‘train’ her 😉 Sounds like maybe she’s the one who has ADD!

      I also found that I needed frequent times to leave my desk, walk around the office, sit in the rest room for a few minutes to do slow breathing; if you know the yoga breathing method ‘alternate nostril breathing’, I always found that helped me to quickly calm and ‘re-set’ myself.

      In my case, my boss was actually trying to be helpful, so she wasn’t the problem. Even so, I’m reminded of a humorous situation, one time when we were reviewing our to-do lists for the day, and I said I needed one hour to focus on finishing a specific task; she agreed, instructed me to work only on that task with, in her words “laser focus”…. I put on my headset and started “laser focusing”…then, 10 minutes later she came out of her office to my desk and said “Can you just find the…… file and send it to me?”. And I burst out laughing, I said “what about ‘laser focus’?”! She cringed. But I treated it in a humorous way and all was fine. But she didn’t do it again while I was finishing that particular task!

      I don’t know if these ideas will be remotely relevant to your situation. Maybe worth trying? Good luck to you!

  3. Several times now, I have turned the burner on the stove on and forgot. Started to do something else. Any help?

    1. I have done this too, if that makes you feel better. Recently scared myself big time by forgetting food on stove and LEFT APT! Came back to smokey apt and smoke detector blaring!! Yikes! I could’ve killed my own cats, not to mention could’ve caused a fire spreading to other apartments!

      Agree w poster who suggests using stove timer. I’ve started using a timer hanging on cord around my neck, so it comes w me when I leave the room! Not only for cooking but also for keeping on task, stopping myself from distractions, etc.

      Years ago I had gotten this item for my dad when I worried he’d burn down the house. Kind of depressing to find that I’ve now become my father! ;(

      But …it’s better than forgetting food on the stove & causing a fire!

      Maybe this could be helpful for you?

    2. I totally do this all the time! I work from home, so I’ll start making lunch on the stove, walk away to “answer a few emails” and only notice that my food is ruined when I smell everything burning. :/ A trick I started using that really helps me is to set the timer on the stove for 5 mins at a time, so I’m alerted that I need to come back and check on what I’m making. It’s loud enough to hear in the other room, so it helps me catch myself. I’ve started using it for other things I do too so I don’t forget them. My therapist also says using a timer is a good way to break up boring tasks or a long work day…you set a timer for 30 mins at a time where you focus and get work done…then reward yourself with a 10 min. break and repeat. Hope that’s helpful for you!

    3. I have a vase that is on my island that I can see from most of the downstairs. When I turn the oven on, I make myself go flip the vase upside down. Then. At some point I at least notice the vase is flipped and go check.

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