Leadership Design Alliance | Chicago Executive Coaching



Head Spinning? IQ Dropping?

Distracted?  Too much on your plate?  Your head sometimes spins trying to figure out what to do next…let alone where to start?   

Research has proven that when we try to do more than one task at the same time our capacity to deliver quality work drops from the expert in our field to that of an eight-year old.  Neuroscientists call it dual-task interference.

Well isn’t that interesting!

 So all that emailing, texting and bouncing between projects we do throughout the day “reduces our mental capacity by an average of 10 points on an IQ test” according to a study conducted by the University of London.  Researchers say that translates into a 5-point drop for women and a 15-point drop for men.

Multi-tasking has become the norm. We’re constantly bombarded – and open to receiving – a unending barrage of information, meetings, deadlines, phone calls, texts, etc. Most of us read and respond to emails during meetings.  That means we’re very likely missing key issues and opportunities to explore new ideas.  And what we hear in those meetings doesn’t even stick because we’re not paying attention.  Time, talent and productivity are wasted.

So, as I write this blog I’m interrupted by an email seeking information required to meet a fast-approaching deadline.  Do I ignore it and continue writing?  No way!  I answer it and then work hard to get back on track.  It’s so easy to get distracted and pulled away from what requires our full attention at any given moment.  I would have been better served if I didn’t have my phone nearby or at least had Do Not Interrupt selected and the phone turned upside down.

So how do you break the pattern – start a new habit?  The brain CAN be retrained with commitment and perseverance.  

  • Become aware of when you’re losing focus – when you are distracted.  The more you increase your awareness, the easier it becomes to set things aside.  How?  Each time you catch yourself drifting off course, document it with a slash mark on a pad of paper that you keep close by.   (No pulling out your phone.  That’s a slippery slope!)  

  • Remove all distractions when you need to focus.  Close the door to your office.  Shut your phone off.  Ask to have calls held for a period of time.  If it’s your cell phone, put it in a drawer, purse or briefcase so you’re not inclined to look at it.  And here’s a novel idea.  Don’t take your phone into a meeting!

  • Set a period of time that you dedicate to work on a project.  Whether it’s 15 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour, you will be far more productive, and the quality of your work will shine through.

  •  Determine what time of the day is best for you to complete a task. I write better in the morning, so the projects that require my deepest attention are scheduled into my morning routines.

If you want to move through your projects faster…create higher quality work…enjoy the work more, then commit to embracing a new habit.  Focus…one project at a time.




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