3 Steps to Combat Multitask Overload

If you are anything like me, at any given moment, you have approximately eleventy million tasks, ideas and to-dos running around in your head.

Multitasking Octopus

OctoNoctua Multitasking via My Little Bit of Life

This is a problem.

“But why?” you ask. “I multitask all day, every day, and I do just fine!”

Yeah, me too buddy.

But have you noticed that you always feel scattered? Do you forget the only important thing you need to bring with you when you leave the house or just up and forget deodorant when you won’t be home for the next 18 hours?

Seems science says there’s a reason for that.

Let me give you a little background, tell you a little story, and share my three steps to combat your multitasking overload. I’ll even tell you about my three secret weapons for making online multitasking less…multitasky.

Why Multitasking Sucks

If you are a proud multitasking junkie like me, give The Myth of MultiTasking from The New Atlantis a read and freak yourself right out. It seems that multitasking doesn’t just make you less productive, it might actually be doing you long-term or permanent damage.

Multitasking Sticky Notes

This may indicate you have a problem

In the article, I found that Linda Stone’s notion of “continuous partial attention” really resonated with me, as it is the state in which I spend most of my day. Being a blogger especially, you have to keep your eye on so many little threads, it’s like herding rabid bats – you cannot possibly devote your full attention to any one bat, even when said bat requires it. Like if his little batty self won’t authenticate with AdSense.

But you know the old adage – the more you herd rabid bats, the more foamy they become. I may be paraphrasing, but let psychologist David Meyer at the University of Michigan’s research put it this way:

…multitasking contributes to the release of stress hormones and adrenaline, which can cause long-term health problems if not controlled, and contributes to the loss of short-term memory.

Maybe that’s why I feel so run down and foggy lately. Social media and the multitudes of off-site tasks I have to fit into my day (not to mention the behind the scenes work) are not linear pursuits. There’s a reason they call this thing the World Wide Web, or at least they did in my day. Your tentacles have to be everywhere.

Need more proof? Check out this NPR’s Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again article, as well as this infographic from Rasmussen College.

It’s when you don’t see the bats…that’s when the bats are coming…

Raoul_Duke Illustration via Gambear1er

We can't stop here. This is bat country. Via gambear1er

I’m sure you would never know it from my fancy new WordPress site and domain email here (looks super professional, don’t it?), but Leave Me to My Projects is a one woman show. When I started this site all of four months ago on Blogger, I could not even figure out how to make a clickable button.

Now I’m messing around with html, SEO, and am majoring in social networking. And although I really do have a broad level of expertise in the topics I feature on site, especially in the Make section (the Grow section is for growing, after all), when it comes to blogging and running this fledgling business and brand, I’ll let you in on a little secret.

I have no idea what I’m doing.

Andrew Bell

"i have no idea what i'm doing" via Andrew Bell. This is me. Holding on for dear life.

As is my way, I’ll figure it out if it kills me. That is the adventure.

3 Steps to Combat Multitasking Overload

I lied. It’s only two steps. But one of them does involve the number 3.

When you are dealing with multiple to-dos in rapid succession, such as cooking a meal for 14 people, troubleshooting behind the scenes on the old bloggerooney, or trying to make it out the door on time in the morning, you do need to have an overall plan first.

  1. Quickly jot down what you have to do, make a list, make a quick mental note, whatever you need to do to give yourself a game plan.
  2. Give yourself three items from your list to execute: the one you are working on right then, the next one, and the one after that.

Super-simple example: I am getting ready for work. I woke up late. Again. Here’s my process, and what keeps running in my head.

  • make coffee, take shower, brush teeth
  • take shower, brush teeth, put in contacts
  • brush teeth, put in contacts, deodorant
  • put in contacts, deodorant, get dressed
  • deodorant, get dressed, gather “must have items”

By narrowing in and focusing only on the smaller picture, I feel less stressed, less scattered, and can get from out of bed to out the door in 15 minutes if need be. It also keeps me from focusing on that new post I want to write, or those emails I need to get back to, or what I should have said to that a-hole in the barbershop that got all loud about the fact that “a woman dared talk to him” and stated that “a woman should know her place.”

I'm sorry, I must have misheard you. Please say that again when I standing nearer my instruments of death.

Fuck that guy. This woman’s place involves holding straight razors against people’s throats for a living.

Ahem. Anyway, the “must have items list” is essential to this process. There are a few items I cannot leave the house without.

  • Phone
  • Keys
  • Chapstick
  • Lighter (Bear Grylls taught me to never be without fire)
  • Wallet

I could do without anything else, but if I do not have those five things, I feel lost all day.

The Secret Weapons

In my online research travels, I have come across a few tools that have literally changed the way I work. If you are a blogger, these are lifesavers. If you aren’t, they still help you streamline your life. Best of all – they’re free.

Evernote

Evernote Logo

When Phil declared on Modern Family to Claire that “somewhere out there, there is a worried little girl making lists” that would balance their son’s life as Claire did Phil’s, Papa Bear shot me the most knowing look. I live for lists. When my anxiety is high, I make even more lists.

I have tried just about every method around, from Do It Tomorrow to Note Everything to scraps of paper floating in pockets and purses willy nilly, but Evernote is the easiest, most comprehensive tool I have found. Between my computer and my phone, I have all of my lists, notes, bookmarks, even photos and audio recordings (handy when you’re sitting in traffic) right at my fingertips.

Everything is taggable, searchable and easy to navigate. There is even this handy little web clipper you can install on your browser to clip the full-page, full article, or just the link of whatever site you’re on. Goodbye browser bookmarks.

Evernote keeps everything in one place, and lets you get as geektastic on it as you want.

HootSuite

HootSuite Logo

Who dat?

In many places online, I go by the name OctoNoctua, a Latin-ish tribute to my two favorite animals, the owl and the octopus. Awesomely enough, HootSuite’s logo is an adorable little owl.

HootSuite (a play on “tout suite”, or “right away,” in French?) lets me manage all 3 Facebook pages that I run, the Facebook group for my leetle seester’s wedding party, Twitter, WordPress, and a number of others that I do not currently use.

It also shortens my links to the ow.ly shortener, which is just freaking cute. Owlie. Aww…

Owlies. Feel it in your gizzards y'all

Owlies. Feel it in your gizzards y'all

The real benefit is this: I spend 12 hours a day at school, and a lot of the rest of my time working the front desk at my barbershop, which means that without a tool like this (or the simpler, but not as versatile Buffer), the point of live-updating social media is sort of lost for me.

This way, if I ever were to slip into a stress-induced coma for a week, HootSuite would post all of the updates I had set up, all at optimized times. Oh, and it totally has a mobile app, and it is super easy to use. I’m just hoping they get G+ up there soon, or I’ll be honest, my profile there is going to wither and die.

I’m still not sold on G+ by the way. Votes? Yay or nay?

Pinterest

Pinterest=Digital crack

Pinterest, and I don’t believe I’m overstating it here, is LIFE. It is a constant deluge of beauty and inspiration, and more addictive than heroin. Or so I would surmise based on my viewings of Trainspotting. Oh Ewan McGregor, how you love to display your junk on the big screen. And how we love you for it. Props.

Ewan McGregor

Pantsless Ewan McGregor, slightly dressed up

Pinterest is an incredibly easy to use image-based (for we visual types) social networking bookmarking site. The pinboards let you put together easy, reference-filled inspiration boards that are as inspiring as they are informational.

I know this is going to make me sound like a tech snob, but I’m closet-proud of the fact that I have been on Pinterest for about a year. From one who has always been behind the trends, to be an early adopter of one of the top 10 social media networks sort of tickles me.

The thing about Pinterest that a lot of newer users don’t seem to have caught onto is this: Pinterest is so much more than about the pictures. I say this because of the volume of pins whose only description is a period.

The basic idea is this: if you click on a pin, unless it’s an original upload, it should be linked to the original source, or at the very least, a relevant source. This is because if I click on a pin, I want more information about that photographer/blog/company/whatever. I do not want to be directed to an endless stream of Tumblr pages.

Don’t worry. I didn’t know this at first either. I, like you, got swept away in the pretty. We may not be perfect, but let’s all resolve to be better. I Tweeted an article from Liv Lane this week that gives Pinterest users a rundown of 4 Ways to Play Fair on Pinterest.

I hope my little 3-step trick has helps make your morning a little easier, and my 3 secret weapons help streamline your online world.

And I’m sorry I swore, I don’t usually do that on LMTMP. But fuck that guy.

Do you have any tricks for keeping yourself organized in the hustle and bustle of your life? Share with the class in the comments below!

And if you want to give me more stuff to do (please do!), it would mean the world to me if you would share this post with your overworked friends! You know, Like it, Tweet it, Digg it, Pin it, whatever. That’s what those lovely Share the Love buttons just below are all about.

Thanks friends, and happy work weekend!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Seems science says there’s a reason for that. {Read on!} [...]