Posts Tagged ‘multi-tasking’

6 Ways Busy Women Can Get More Organized

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

One of the male FBI agents on my squad was talking about household chores that needed to get done. He then ended the conversation with, “I’ll let the wife handle it.” I was a female FBI agent carrying the same amount of assignments as my male counterpart. I couldn’t help but spit out: “We could all use a good wife!”

My retort was met with icy silence but I had made my point. Today’s professional woman is just as busy as her male counterpart. For those of us who don’t have domestic help, it quickly becomes a situation of trying to balance two jobs at once.

In recent years more men have taken on equal responsibility for child-rearing and home-maintenance. Studies studies have found, however, that most women still face an uphill battle when it comes to juggling their priorities.

Whether women resist giving up control at home, or whether the tasks are foisted upon them, it is clear that women need to rewire their thinking. They need to be more efficient at juggling multiple mental tasks to enhance their performance.

Here are 6 ways busy women can get more organized:

1. DON’T BELIEVE THE LIE

Busy women are told they can multi-task better than men to meet the busy challenges of both life and work. But they are getting sucked into a lie—a big one with serious consequences.

While there has been a lot of talk about how women can multi-task, there is very little science to back up this assertion. In fact, psychologists have only been able to confirm that men are slower than women when switching quickly between tasks.

It is possible to engage in several tasks at once but it’s also clear that accuracy and performance drops off quickly—for both men and women.

The reason multi-tasking is not efficient is because the brain works in a serial manner—one thing after another.

People can observe multiple activities, but they are not able to pay equal attention to all of them.

Tip: Busy women should practice how to switch rapidly between tasks. And focus all of their attention on each task as they do so.

2. PRACTICE ROUTINE ACTIVITIES

In the course of a busy day there are times when we all need to perform more than one task at a time. One way to juggle more than one ball is to practice specific, routine activities over and over again until they become embedded. Once that activity is embedded, start layering by adding more activities.

Driving to work is a perfect example: you do not need to “think” about the route you drive, the radio station to select, which exit to take, or directions to your office.

These activities are embedded into your thinking because your brain likes to identify patterns. The more you use a pattern, the less attention you will need to complete the task.

Tip: Busy women need to embed repetitive tasks as much as possible because it will free up their brain. This will allow them to focus on other tasks that arise during a busy day.

3. PRIORITIZE INFORMATION

We’ve all experienced a barrage of information coming at us all at once. As a result, we sometimes get paralyzed and feel that we can’t move ahead with any decision! This is a normal reaction because your brain is experiencing an overload of information that is queuing up for attention.

Just like a computer can get constipated with too many jobs coming in at once, our brain reacts in much the same way.

Tip: When busy women find themselves confronted with chaos or bottlenecks, prioritize the information. Once they introduce order into the way they make your decisions, they will free up the brain’s energy so it has more space for other information.

4. WORK IN SPRINTS

Physiologist Nathaniel Kleitman has discovered that we operate in a 90-minute rhythm throughout the day by moving progressively through periods of higher and lower alertness. After working at high intensity for more than 90 minutes, we begin relying on stress hormones for energy.

The result is that our prefrontal cortex starts to shut down; we begin to lose our ability to think clearly and move into a physiological state commonly referred to as “fight or flight.”

This research confirms that we have a need for rhythmic pulses of rest and renewal throughout our day. Many of us rely on willpower to bulldoze through lengthy projects or meet deadlines, but taking regular breaks is just what our brain needs.

Tip: Busy women need to resist overriding a period of low alertness with caffeine. Instead, manage your time by working hard for 90 minutes and then take a 20-minute break. Make it a priority each morning to focus single-mindedly on your most challenging and important task for 60 to 90 minutes before taking a break. Even better, encourage those who work for you to do the same.

5. USE WISDOM WHEN SPLITTING ATTENTION

If you feel pressured by several things at once, make a conscious decision as to whether you should split your focus, and then put a time limit on how long you will spend spitting your attention.

Afterward, go back and focus on your first priority. If a thought should enter your mind about another matter, jot a quick note to remind you at a later date and resume focusing on your priority.

It is possible to juggle several things at once, but remember, the only way to do multiple mental tasks, if accuracy is important, is by doing them one at a time.

Tip: Busy women need to be observant at meetings. If you’re speaking and observe that people are splitting their attention by texting or checking email, announce that the next point you are going to make is important so you get their full attention.

6. RECOGNIZE YOUR BRAIN LOVES VISUALS

Visuals are a great way to activate the mind. That’s why storytelling, pictures, and metaphors work so well — they generate an image.

Visuals are laden with information. They provide color, shape, size, context, etc. Since they take less energy than words, they are efficient ways for the brain to process information.

Tip: Busy women should grab a pen and paper and write down their prioritized projects for the day. This saves their brain from the need to recall and review each one. Save that energy for getting those tasks done! There is a reason checklists are so useful.

The biggest tip of all

While busy women can use these tips to help them get more organized, the same tips apply to busy men!

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

5 Effective Ways To Stop Feeling Overwhelmed

Monday, June 5th, 2017

It’s easy to get overwhelmed while working an FBI investigation because they are solved by gathering lots of evidence and collecting reams of information. As an agent, I spent hours, days, months, and even years generating enough knowledge about an individual to decide whether evidence pointed to their innocence or guilt.

Knowledge is power, but modern technology has made information so accessible that most of us experience a surfeit of it. When that happens, our minds become overwhelmed as more and more information demands our attention.

At the dawn of the computer age, people were predicting that less paper and more technology would free us to work less and pay more attention to the most important things in our lives. Both of those predictions have been wrong; we are not only getting paid the the same but we’re expected to spend a great deal more time keeping up with technology that changes all the time.

When is technology producing information that is valuable, and when is it information to be ignored? At what point are we overwhelmed with the emails, video clips, news stories, and social media coming at us? What can we do?

Here are 5 effective things to do to stop feeling overwhelmed

1. USE MENTAL STRENGTH TO FOCUS ON THE IMPORTANT STUFF

Successful leaders keep from feeling overwhelmed when they focus their attention on information that truly matters to them.

“Busy” and “not busy” are not defined by how many activities are on your plate. The reality is that there is no such thing as multitasking, even though we can address several needs at a time. Research has shown that while we’re capable of engaging in several activities at once, and still be operationally functional, our brain can give only one of those activities its complete attention.

Busy-ness is truly a state of mind, not a fact.

TIP: This means you must use mental strength to focus only on those activities that are important and not let your attention get diverted by less important things—in other words, prioritize your priorities. Begin each day with prioritizing your day’s most important activities so that you don’t end your day feeling overwhelmed by what you did not accomplish.

2. TACKLE THE HARD STUFF FIRST

If you keep from being overwhelmed, do not leave the hardest and most difficult tasks for the end of the day.

Your brain is like every other part of your body: it takes a lot of energy to run it. A typical person’s brain uses approximately 10.8 calories every hour.

Your brain takes power to run and this power drains as you use it. This explains why it’s easy to get distracted when you’re tired or hungry. If you have a difficult task in front of you, start on it while your brain is fresh and energized.

TIP: To keep from feeling overwhelmed means resisting deep instinctive tendencies to avoid what is unpleasant or produces fear within us. If the project before you seems overwhelming, break it down into smaller tasks. Smaller bites will provide you confidence and a sense of forward momentum as you chip away at the larger project. Give yourself one goal each day that will move you toward conquering it. At the end of the week, evaluate how much progress you’ve made. Then congratulate yourself.

3. GROW A PAIR AND LEARN TO SAY NO

Only robots always say “yes.” We all try to be positive and value the possibilities before us, but at some point it become ridiculous. Every single day we’re faced with temptations and inducements to keep doing more. It is so easy to get sucked into a lie about how much better our life will be if we only keep struggling to move upward—and onward.

Both life and business are getting dumped into little projects that are short-term and recyclable. We’ve become like our favorite airline and overbooked because we certainly don’t want to miss out on any margin of profit that can be squeezed from our already miserly little lives.

Take control! Here are 3 reasons you may not be able to say no:

  • Most people, and women in particular, hate letting others down and tend to take on more than they can handle. But whom are we trying to impress—others or ourselves? Often, we’re hooked on feeling needed by others so we say yes when someone comes to us for something. This is what we secretly want, so we end up feeling overwhelmed with everything that we’ve committed ourself to.
  • When faced with an unpleasant or difficult task, we welcome distractions. We’re actually relieved to be able to turn our attention somewhere else. As a result, we do not accomplish what we need to do in order to finish our tasks.
  • If we are not in control of our life, we may be so disorganized that we’re unaware of our other commitments. We end up taking on additional tasks at the expense of completing our own critical tasks.

TIP: If any of these bad habits describe you, nip them in bud and just say NO!

4. STOP BLAMING STRESS FOR EVERYTHING BAD IN YOUR LIFE

Busy people keep from feeling overwhelmed by remembering short-term stress triggers the production of immune cells that boost the body’s defenses. As a result, their brain and body get a boost.

Too little stress and you’re bored and unmotivated; too much and you become difficult to live with and risk your health.

Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges people to see stress as a positive. In a recent TED talk she said that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. When you choose to look at stress as helpful, you are creating the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others while under stress, you can create resilience.

In her book, The Stress-Proof Brain, Dr. Melanie Greenberg talks about ways we boost our confidence levels and how we can cope with stress in constructive ways. She suggests to ask yourself these questions:

  • What helped me survive other difficult circumstances in my life?
  • Have I faced this sort of situation before?
  • What skills or personal qualities do I possess that might help me manage my stress?
  • What external resources or support can I rely on to help me deal with the stressor?

5. MAKE MEETINGS COUNT

A recent study indicates that most CEOs spend about one third of their time in meetings. It’s a lot of time and it can either be valuable time or wasted time; it’s up to you.

A financial advisor once told me that he never attended meetings that 1) did not have an agenda, and 2) a timeframe for the agenda. It’s a good rule to live by. If you are the one running the meeting, keep this in mind:

TIP:

  • Identify the topic.
  • Remind people why they’re discussing it.
  • Decide who will take ownership for the topic.
  • Put a limit on how long to be spent on the topic. If time runs over, create a sub-committee to report back to the larger group.

If you can clarify these things, everyone’s time will be well spent.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”