I believe we can all do a better job of managing our mental energy – if we didn’t take brain fitness for granted. As discussed in my previous post, Do You Need a Brain Gym?, we CAN improve our thinking skills.

Sometimes the demands on a manager’s time and attention can make one feel like a juggling octopus.  After a while we get awfully good at multitasking – or we think so. Perhaps, we need to revisit the skill of single tasking, of being able to really focus to get work done. One study of office workers showed that they switched tasks every three or four minutes, with a 30-minute refocusing time necessary when that happens–certainly not an efficient way to work.

You may not have control over interruptions at the office, but you can set some priorities and tactfully set boundaries on your thinking time. This may require you to close your office door or tell people in advance when you can or can’t be interrupted.  I suggest my clients block their calendars with “thinking time.”  In fact, I recommend a consistent block daily to at least allow time to process your thoughts and ideas, or take a mental break altogether.

In the work I do in organizations, I’ve asked many people about their multitasking habits. Most people proudly confess to these skills like a badge of honor.

The question of “why are we willing to fracture our attention and risk errors” remains unanswered. Perhaps our ego leads us to a feeling of pride in believing we are able to multitask – proving our cognitive prowess, but it can also be fear driven. We’re probably terrified of missing something or not having an answer immediately at our fingertips. Perhaps this contributes to our own loss of time and ability to focus on a single task.

Single tasking well is a skill that’s underrated. When you think about it, telling someone you’re occupied with one thing and can’t fracture your attention isn’t something that you hear often.

What do you think? Are you paying attention to your brain fitness? Share your thoughts by submitting a comment below.

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