Notes on the New Normal

Like everyone, I suppose, my to do list has been growing rather lengthy of late. In an attempt to wrangle it, I recently fell down a rabbit hole I have visited many times, looking into the latest and greatest tools and information regarding productivity, task management, and prioritization. However, rather than resulting in a new app or process for managing my tasks, I came away with a new outlook that focuses less on how I use my time and more on why I use my time.

This outlook crystalized for me while thinking about multitasking. The notion that we can successfully complete multiple tasks simultaneously has been debunked time and time again, as a simple internet search will show; yet articles continue to be published from reputable sources promoting multitasking, including this one published just this week. Multitasking aside, we do have the ability to task switch – move from working on one task to another, and task stack – do two or more things at the same time that do not draw on the same source of physical or mental energy such as listening to an audiobook while driving. There are tons of resources on how to better task switch and stack, but why bother?

It has been shown that we get better results when we complete a single task from start to finish without interruption, but as we all know it is nearly impossible to find such uninterrupted time to focus on just one thing.

So, we task switch and stack because it is necessary, but also because it gives us more control and agency over our time. Having a conversation with a colleague while walking across campus can not only save time, but allows us to reap the physical and mental benefits of simply getting away from our desks. Switching from drafting an email to greeting a passing co-worker helps us build relationships and express our concern for the well-being of others.

Of course, there will always be those times when we have to buckle down and simply get some work done. And I certainly do not want to diminish the importance of mindfulness and focus when needed. However, by using productivity tools and techniques thoughtfully it is not getting things done that matters, it is getting things that matter done.

Take care of yourselves and each other,

Theran Fisher
Director, Talent & Organizational Effectiveness