Multitasking: attention at half mast
Trying to do more than one thing at a time is actually a false  
economy, finds WALLACE IMMEN
Wednesday, January 18, 2006 Page C3 

When Jeane Jorgensen used to check her e-mail at the same time as she  
was talking on the phone, she'd often forget what she'd told the  
caller by the time she hung up.

And because she hadn't paid full attention to the e-mails, either,  
she'd have to go back and re-read them.

"I was continually under stress and ended up being angry at myself.  
I'd feel badly that other people were able to multitask, but I  
couldn't do it," says the Toronto-based freelance communications  
specialist. "I would sometimes just feel lost."

Lots of people may boast about their ability to multitask, but it's  
becoming clear that, for many of them, such juggling is a false  
economy, career experts say.

[... A] study last April of 1,000 office workers, commissioned by  
Hewlett-Packard Co., [...] found the distraction of checking e-mail  
or text messaging while doing another task can cause someone's IQ to  
drop between 5 and 15 per cent.

[ See 
20060118/CAMULTITASK18/TPBusiness/General ]

How to stay focused

Multitasking can turn into multi-frustration, the experts say. Here  
are their tips for staying focused amid the clutter of competing  
demands for your attention:

* Cut up the completion pie. Divide tasks into pieces that you can  
finish each day, because worrying about incomplete actions consumes  

* Keep track or progress. At the beginning of a project, outline all  
the steps you need to take. This will give you a template for knowing  
where you are along the way.

* Rethink meetings. Examine the need for such gatherings and who has  
to attend. With technology, you can make your point or get the  
highlights of a meeting without actually sitting through an hour of  
something that is strictly informational.

* Clean up. Get rid of clutter on your desk and organize e-mail.  
Piles of stuff can make you feel overwhelmed; getting rid of them can  
be liberating.

* Keep e-mail messages and replies short. Write them in bite-sized  
pieces and make it clear what kind of response you require, if any.

* Block out time. Set aside an uninterrupted amount of time morning  
and evening to check e-mails. Don't check outside those windows.

* Bookmark. Before you leave an unfinished task, make a mental or  
physical bookmark of where you left off and what the next step should  

Wallace Immen