Breaking up with multi-tasking: how my time in quarantine is helping me move on from an unhealthy relationship
Over the last few weeks many of Americans, myself included, have launched into full-time #WFHLIFE. While some of us have been exposed to the occasional work from home day, I don't think anyone making the transition was quite ready for the challenges it would present. And while everyone’s experience with working from home is unique, my experience has led me to one conclusion. I need to stop multitasking. Here’s why:
Studies have shown that when humans try to multitask, our brain creates a type of selection “bottle-necking” and as a result, leads to time lost as the brain decides which task to perform. I don’t know about you, but I already feel like there are not enough hours in the day. So, the idea that multitasking is actually making me less productive is reason enough to stop.
Research has also shown that multitasking contributes to the release of stress hormones and adrenaline. This was my ah-ha. For the longest time, the days where I felt the most productive also happened to be the days that I felt the most stressed. I would finish a day trying to accomplish a million and one things physically drained and with a splitting headache. Realizing that this was not sustainable, I have started to rewire my brain and focus on the task at hand. Now, when I hunker down and start working on a task, I eliminate distractions. I turn off email banners on my computer, I put my phone on silent and I set a timer. Once the timer goes off, I allow myself to check my emails/text and see if anything urgent came in. If not, I set another timer and get back to the task at hand. So far, this is working, and nothing has gone up in flames. I am getting my work done, I feel just as productive and at the end of the day I feel a sense of accomplishment – not stress.
Adjusting my expectations
There have been many days in quarantine that are filled with good intentions to accomplish 100% of what I set out to do. Unfortunately, life has other plans. Living in New York City comes with many challenges, most of all space. On top of that I also am working from home with a two-year-old and a husband who is also working from home.
Can someone tell me why I started this quarantine thinking I needed to bake a loaf of bread twice a week? There is so much pressure on social media to “make the most” of the time we are stuck at home, but when you are already time poor those expectations start to feel like a burden.
I’ll admit, I initially had very high expectations for myself and a very glamorous vision of what working from home is like. It took about a month, but I have since lowered those expectations and that vision is now covered in peanut butter and jelly. And this is okay. I don't need to work out twice a day, read a new book once a week, start a blog, all while working full-time and taking care of another human. Coming to terms with this has helped me tremendously and when I do manage to do something for myself like read, I am focusing on doing it one chapter at a time.
There is no doubt in my mind that many of us are feeling overwhelmed by the new state of work. However, I do think that we will come out of this with a better understanding of what we want the world of work to look like. I expect that employees will become better advocates for themselves and employers will need to make adjustments accordingly.
As for me, I hope that my willingness to NOT multi-task carries into an office environment. I except initially it will be hard to not be distracted by my co-workers and will naturally find myself multi-tasking again, but just like I did with #WFHLIFE, I will focus on making it work one day at a time.
Sarah Green, Account Director
Embracing Productive Conflict
Businesses require conflict to function. And conflict takes many shapes and sizes: delegating a task to a colleague, choosing who to promote, etc. These are essential to day-to-day operating functions, yet we often dread and run from conflict. This creates conflict debt.
Like most debts, conflict debt will get paid, but often it’s paid by those who don’t have the context to make an informed decision.
For example, consider that you’re a CEO for a retail company. Your CMO wants to collect demographic data on your shoppers and your CFO wants shoppers to sign up for credit cards. Instead of choosing one, you say yes to both, leaving your sales staff on the front-lines to make an uninformed decision on what to collect – they know your shoppers will not fill out a survey AND apply for a credit card. And all of this was because you didn’t want to tell your CMO or CFO that what they wanted was not a priority at that time.
Conflict debt erodes at organizations, because it erodes the trust your people have in your business. Coworkers count on each other to make hard decisions and deal with conflict. When it isn’t dealt with, it leads to higher burnout rates, greater turnover, lack of innovation, etc.
But conflict gets a bad rep. Many see conflict as the antithesis of teamwork, when in reality conflict is what makes teams. What is the point of a team if everyone is going the same way and there is no diversity of thought?
Think of a team of people pulling a tarp across a tent. They’re all trying to accomplish one thing – keep the tent from getting wet – and everyone is pulling in opposite directions to accomplish this goal. If a team member pulls too hard (e.g. is more powerful, is a loudmouth), then someone will get hurt. And people “let go” of their rope because they’re exhausted, they don’t feel heard, etc.
So how do you create productive conflict? It’s a team effort. Ask everyone on your team to identify what their unique “ropes” are:
Doing this will allow you to experience conflict as a role-based tension instead of a friction (an interpersonal experience).
For more info, read on here: https://hbr.org/2013/12/conflict-strategies-for-nice-people
In a digital world our offline gestures matter even more
Like most of you, the number of conversations I’ve been having recently about Artificial Intelligence and where the digital world is heading has to be approaching the high triple digits. It seems to be all anyone wants to talk about and, fortunately for me, is an extremely exciting subject to explore.
The implications AI holds for our lives is really outrageous and when you start to drill that down to how it may impact talent strategies in the future – the possibilities are quite endless – Alexa voice applications, Chatbots, personal office assistants - I could go on and on. In fact, I’m sure I will in an upcoming post!
But what I’m really thinking about right now is how these digital enhancements to our lives are going to further highlight the importance of offline, real world actions.
Recently we’ve been growing our team in North America. We posted the opening and an algorithm sent us a ton of relevant applicants. Relevant based on a data framework aligned to “what” we were looking for and not necessarily “who” we were looking for. For our role the “who” was just as, if not more, important than the “what.”
Of course we scheduled phone interviews and in-person conversations to learn more about the people we were talking to. Nothing groundbreaking there, but we now knew more about who they really were and could begin to determine if they’d bring the right attributes to our team and fit the tight-knit group.
Had we been using a video interview platform we may have been told by yet another algorithm how trustworthy and honest our candidates were. If we were hiring a high-volume role, we may not have had the luxury to vet our candidates so thoroughly and would have relied even heavier on an algorithm to influence our decision.
In this instance our algorithm identified a high-potential candidate, we took things offline to understand them better and then the candidate did something all job search advocates recommend but few searchers do – they sent a handwritten thank you letter after our first telephone interview!
This was someone we knew we wanted to hire from our first conversation, but this extra level of attention and care shown really put them over the top. If we were stuck between two good candidates, this would have made the difference. Had we automated the entire process, well then we would never have gotten the letter in the first place.
In a world where it’s easier to ‘click and do’ then ‘think and do,’ this extra offline effort really stands apart.
Tim Middleton, Agency Director