Much has been made over the myth of multitasking, or doing multiple things at once. Turns out, our brains aren’t really capable of doing more than one thing at a time. Instead, switching between tasks causes a stop/start process that uses time and attention and negatively impacts our focus on each task, effectively diminishing our effectiveness with all tasks. The more often we switch tasks, and the greater number of tasks we juggle, the less productive we are.

Going into the 4th quarter, which is the “busy season” for most employee benefit advisers, here are six simple steps to decrease the lure of multi-tasking and increase your productivity.

Bloomberg/file photo

Also see:The 5 brokerages making the most money in each state, part 1.”

1) Put your phone in silent mode. If you have a project that needs your full attention, put your phone in silent mode so it doesn’t distract you every time a new call, text or notification comes in. I also disabled the blinking “new message” light so I’m not visually distracted.

2) Schedule time for calls. Rather than trying to “catch” someone on the phone, email them to set up a time to talk. That way, you will both have the opportunity to be prepared and focused and you will be less likely to be interrupted by an incoming call when you are in the middle of another project.

3) Mute the volume on your computer. Computer notifications about new emails, instant messages and news stories can be distracting. When I am working on a project, I hit the mute button so I can stay focused.

4) Disable pop-up notifications on your computer. I find pop-ups to be even more distracting than sounds, because I can usually see a snippet of the incoming message in the pop-up window and it instantly captures my attention. Turn these off to keep a “clutter-free” virtual workspace.

5) Turn off the automatic delivery of emails. Most email programs are set up to automatically deliver new messages, which can be distracting if you’re focused on something else. Even if I don’t read the emails, I can feel disheartened when I’m working on getting one email out and I see 10 more come in. Some programs allow you to disable that feature so that you only receive messages when you hit the send/receive button.

6) Find a quick and easy way to note great ideas. Even if you follow all of the steps above, you’ll still have distracting thoughts pop into your mind while you’re working, and some of them will be great ideas. Rather than switching gears and focusing on the new idea, pin it somewhere to work on later. I use Evernote to store ideas for future development — social media posts, blog topics — and it only takes me a second to put my thoughts down before I get back to the project I was working on.

Also see:The five brokerages making the most money in each state, part 2.”

Technology can be wonderful, but it can also send us more data than our brains can process at one time. Not all of these steps may work for you, but implementing a few of them can make a big difference in your ability to focus on the things that really matter. I’d love to hear from you. What strategies do you use to stay focused and shut out the noise?

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