Is multi-tasking making a mess of your day?


The other day I was reading a really wonderful book, which I highly recommend, called Psycho-cybernetics. It’s a great book, written in the 1950s that talks about mindset and the keys to success. The author, Maxwell Maltz, quoted a talk, given by Dr. James Gordon Gilkey in 1944, that was re-published in Reader’s Digest and became a huge hit pretty much over night. The concept really hit home for me, so I thought I’d share it here.

Like Sands Through An Hourglass…


The article is about how, over many years we develop mental habits that have a negative impact – the sense, feeling and thought that you have many things to do, and you feel like you should be doing them all now, is a bad mental habit. Shifting the way you think can change the level of stress and worry you experience…

Just like only one grain of sand can pass through the opening of an hourglass at a time, so can we only experience 1 moment at a time in our lives… and, we can only do one thing at a time. (Now, I know that some hourglasses are built so that more than one grain of sand can pass through at a time, but it kind of kills the idea, doesn’t it?)

Very profound, when you think about it. And it illustrates the point in the book, “It is not the job, but the way we insist upom thinking of the job, that causes the trouble.”

It made me get more honest with myself about ‘multi-tasking’ which, quite frankly, is a complete fallacy. When I try to multi-task, I mess things up. And, that is exactly what recent studies have shown – multi-tasking does not increase productivity, in fact decreases it. (Check out this interview on NPR with a professor and a scientist as they discuss what really happens when we multi-task.)

One Of My Secrets

Use a timer.

I’ve used a timer for a long time now, to set time deadlines for tasks (it’s a great way to do a bit at a time on something that is big and daunting), and it creates incentive to beat the clock. I recommend you consider it too.

For me, it definitely helps with the concept – I know I am going to focus exclusively on this one task for the next 20 minutes (or whatever the amount of time is) – it let’s me let go of the other things I know also need to get done today, or even in the next hour or two.

And, remember, when you have lots to do, using any brain power to think about, or worry about anything but the task at hand, it actually counter productive.

Creating a practice of staying ‘in the moment’ and present to whatever you are doing right now – letting everything else fall away and having time dedicated to the tasks that are most important will really help you increase your productivity, get much more out of the time you have to get your work done, and make what you do even more effective.

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. Irene Ross says:

    How do I manage my time? I keep a time management chart–handwritten, not typed–so I can really feel it and experience it. I list all my main projects and how much time they get over the week–then I divide them into separate days. I then examine the chart several times a week to make sure I’m on track and make any necessary revisions.

    This is actually very freeing. For one, we often get distracted by those “bright shiny objects” and it really forces us to think about if and how they help our business–and that makes it easier to delete them if necessary.

    But, most of all, it keeps me from “freaking out.” I have the kind of personality that feels that everything should be done at once–I can keep myself in check and say to myself, “No, you have that scheduled for such-and-such day so, for now, leave it alone.”

  2. Ann Shea says:

    Payson, this post is something that resonates with me. My love of researching online and the gazillions of hyperlinks in my favorite email newsletters send me off onto dozens of tangents online, and it can be hard to focus. A timer is a great device to get a task done (or schedule well-needed stretching breaks/eye rests from being online). Also a to-do list (written by hand on a small paper pad the night before) helps me keep on track, along with scheduling time blocks on my online calendar to address what I want to accomplish in the day. Essentially I’ve resorted to making “appointments” with myself, and it works!

  3. Payson says:

    Love this Irene – sounds like it’s a very effective system. Have also found that by using systems and following a schedule (although not too tight of one) it’s been very freeing as well – I rebelled against it for a long time, and it’s not perfect every day, but it makes a HUGE difference.
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Payson says:

    Thanks for this Ann… totally agree with you! Have also resorted to making appointments with myself, otherwise, I end up with no time for me or to accomplish the things that will move me and my business forward. It is essential and it does work! :-)