Jennette Holzworth: Doing more, accomplishing less


Published: Monday, July 1, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 28, 2013 at 8:08 p.m.

There is rarely a time when multiple activities aren't vying for my attention, pulling my sanity to shreds and jerking me in various directions.

Perhaps you can relate.

I wear many hats on a typical day and have the ability to schedule tasks as I choose. I opt to multitask whenever possible in an effort to increase "down time" and expedite my to-do list, a freedom that ends up being more constricting than liberating.

My thought is simple: I would have more free time if I could answer email, watch the game, paint my nails, eat dinner and have a meaningful conversation with my husband all while doing the dishes.

I'm not alone in that thinking, however flawed it may be. In today's society, more is demanded of us in less time, so we pile one task on top of another in an unsuccessful attempt to make everything fit. The lines between various responsibilities get blurred, ultimately sinking productivity while our stress levels soar.

By trying to do more, we accomplish less.

Research from the Institute of Psychiatry in London shows that when one is fielding constant emails, text messages and phone calls, IQ falls 10 points — more than twice the drop seen from smoking marijuana. Several studies back up the findings that multitasking actually decreases productivity.

Could it be my to-do list would accommodate more "down time" if I was able to focus on just one bullet at a time? Indeed, it could.

I sat down and drew some boundaries that breathed true freedom into my day. Without the pressure to perform multiple tasks with moderate efficiency, I can do one thing at a time and do it well, improving the caliber of my work.

Here are some things to consider:

• Prioritize: Designate the importance of the tasks on your to-do list each morning. This will give a clear picture of where to start each day and how to execute each objective.

• Measure: Assign time limits for each task, setting alarms if necessary to keep you on track. When time is up, move along, even if everything isn't perfected. If you must, return later if time allows.

• Communicate: Just because something lands on your desk doesn't mean it earns priority status; categorize it with the rest of your tasks. Communicate with your boss or co-workers that switching to this new task means another priority will fall to the wayside, then drop something else to accommodate.

• Eliminate: Close the door to your office, turn off your phone and shut down your Web browser. Answer missed calls, voicemails and emails in designated sets between large projects, rather than sporadically as they filter in.

• Break: Don't underestimate the refreshing power of an hourly stretch break or a breath of fresh air. Research shows performance decreases when extended periods of time are devoted to a task without a break.

Jennette Holzworth is a personal trainer and nutritionist who lives in Gainesville.

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