Multitasking or Faulty-Tasking?
As busy providers there seems to be an ever-increasing number of things to do and then to document having done them! Aside from the numerous daily planned activities we also have to accommodate unexpected events such as unplanned consumer medical episodes, staff absenteeism and vulnerable individuals absconding just to name a few. Since we all just have 24 hours in a day many of us find ourselves trying to do multiple things at once just to save time. In fact some of us even revel in being called multitasking Queens (or Kings – gotta be PC now!)
Over the years as I have interacted with providers over the phone I have had the opportunity to listen to many attempts at multitasking. There was one memorable example where a provider called for customer support guidance while simultaneously answering every phone call that came through, breaking up an intermittent squabble between consumers and trying to deal with payroll! As you can imagine none of those things was handled optimally.
Recent research shows that the human brain can only focus on one cognitive task (i.e. work requiring thought) at a time. So when we think we’re multitasking we’re simply switching from one task to another. It just feels like you’re doing it all at once. Now you can chew gum, walk and send a text because the gum popping and walking require no thought (procedural ie muscle memory only). To prove multitasking is a myth try some of the small tests at this website – you just can’t do it! So multitasking as we know it doesn’t really exist.
The human brain not wired to handle multiple cognitive tasks simultaneously and any attempts to perform multitasking (i.e. switching back and forth between tasks over a short time period) results in a decrease in work quality and speed. As an example if you needed to cook 2 batches of cookies and 2 batches of omelettes you could cook in this sequence cookies, omelette, cookies, omelette. Or cookies, cookies, omelette, omelette. Which do you think is most efficient? Of course the second option as you can re-use equipment that is already out and clean up after the second of the similar batches. Trying to switch between different work or task types is akin to using the inefficient option one in the scenario above.
There is also evidence multitasking impacts the area of the brain that controls our emotional intelligence (EQ) so we are less aware of how our behavior impacts those around us when we switch between dissimilar tasks frequently.
Finally, multitasking temporarily lowers your IQ! A study at the University of London found that participants who tried to multitask during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what would be expected if the participants had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. Among a group of multitasking men it was found that IQ drops of 15 points lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child. This is not what we want for ourselves or our staff in the high impact, highly regulated IDD (special needs) service environment!!
Brainstorm all your To Do’s by writing them down in one place. Once you have a master list, determine which are “Projects” – something with a clear start, end goal and completion date, eg registering a new residential location with the state prior to enrolling consumers or rolling out a value-added tool like Focused EHR at all of your residential locations and which are “Tasks” – ongoing and/or recurring items requiring maintenance… i.e. those to-dos that crop up on a regular basis eg initialing daily training goal forms or approving service delivery logs.
Project work is distinct from Task work because each requires different types of activities and different levels of concentration. Knowing the difference between what qualifies as “task work” and “project work” will help you plan time according to the different levels of effort required to complete each. For instance, if you know you’re able to focus better at certain times of day, use those times for the tasks requiring deeper concentration.
The two indispensable keys to leveraging the time you have are:
And since you can only concentrate on one thing at a time if you’re going to get it done well, why not ask yourself:
“What ONE thing can I do today to get me closer to my goal?”
“When is the best time for me to complete this task in the least amount of time, given everything else I’ve got going on today?”
No matter how much you plan or prioritize keeping up with the increasingly complex regulatory demands in long term care cannot be efficiently achieved with archaic paper charts or rudimentary Excel sheet or Access-based desktop-bound documentation. The value proposition of an EHR or practice management software system is undeniable! They are cheaper than adding new personnel and never need benefits, sick time or rest! Implementing Focused EHR is easier than you think! Let your software do the multitasking for you – that’s what they designed to do! Automation not multitasking is the smart, most efficient and affordable answer! Call FOCUSED SOFTWARE TODAY!
Multitasking damages your brain and career – https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2014/10/08/multitasking-damages-your-brain-and-career-new-studies-suggest/#7d1b6ed556ee
The multitasking cure – http://www.firecrackercommunications.com/site/the-multitasking-cure/
Photograph: Mohammed Hassan (overwhelmed multitasking man)