You may feel like you have no choice but to multitask throughout the day to stay on top of your responsibilities and manage your team, but there’s plenty of compelling evidence to the contrary.
Here are a few ways being more present at work is the real key to optimal performance.
You’ll feel less stressed: Small changes make a big difference in where you focus your attention, even if you feel your day is ruled by distractions.
For a few days, commit to keep the multitasking tools you normally keep close at hand out of sight and mind. Put your smartphone in your bag or desk drawer instead of in your pocket or near your computer; leave it in your office when you attend meetings.
Turn off your computer screen when employees come to your office for meetings.
Try to schedule meetings away from computers and avoid meeting rooms with windows, whenever possible.
Ask people who stop by your office to have a quick chat if they can instead schedule a 10-minute meeting with you, so you can give them your full attention.
Hold yourself to the same policy, if you have a tendency to pop in on your staff to ask questions.
All of these shifts are small, but you may be surprised at how significantly they impact your perception of the pace and pressure your workday entails.
You’ll be less inclined to engage in trivial exchanges: How many times have you lost several minutes of your day because you were sucked into a group email conversation or after-hours text that generated little in the way of meaningful or productive outcomes? How often have you felt frustrated after receiving an email or voicemail in which you’re given unclear direction or incomplete information, yet you respond back with your own email or text message?
Behavioral psychologist Susan Weinschenk, who writes a column for Psychology Today, recently wrote that the brain chemical dopamine is the biological reason we continue futile exchanges over email and text message.
She explains that though dopamine is one of the brain’s “feel good” chemicals, it seeks continuous pleasure. When we respond to stimuli that offers immediate gratification (like instant chat, text message or email), our brain gets a boost of dopamine. That release can make us feel like we’re productive but only for a moment.
That’s because one dopamine release initiates a feedback loop of sorts that seeks more of the same. As a result, it’s hard to disengage from pointless back and forth emails and text messages, even when we realistically know they waste time, and distract from important tasks.
Before you ask a question via email or text or respond to one, pause and consider if it’s the best use of your attention.
If responding by technology won’t result in immediate resolution to a problem or question, have an actual conversation.
You’ll feel happier with your job: Your attitude at work impacts how your team members collectively feel about their job, purpose and performance. The more present you are at work the more likely you are to be happy, regardless of what you’re doing.
A few years ago, Harvard University researcher Matt Killingsworth invented a free app called Track Your Happiness, and wrote about the results for the journal Science.
Used by more than 15,000 people across the globe, his app sent random messages that asked people to report what they were doing at any given time, and to rate how happy they were doing it.
The results revealed that how immersed people are in a task directly correlates to whether they feel happy doing it, even if the task is unpleasant.
The more present you are as a manager, the more “qualified” you are to encourage your team to shift away from tendencies to multitask.