It’s always tempting to answer one more email before bed or to reply to one more text from a friend during work. Nonetheless, numerous studies have shown that multitasking, which is actually just constant task-switching, is exhausting. As the American Psychological Association states in an article about multitasking: “Psychologists who study what happens to cognition (mental processes) when people try to perform more than one task at a time have found that the mind and brain were not designed for heavy-duty multitasking.”
Some versions of “never fully on, never fully off” have been around longer than we think. Fortunately, this problem has been considered at length by the Jewish wisdom tradition, offering this simple solution: divide time between striving (work) and restful delight (Shabbat). The traditional day of rest practice may need a few tweaks to fit your life, however, the basic goal remains beneficial: time that is fully “off” and time that is fully “on.”
You don’t need to be Jewish or spiritual (or anything other than practical) in order to experience the benefits of these 3 tips, inspired by the past, but suited for today:
Tip 1: Limit Distractions to Improve Focus at Work
The constant barrage of notifications and alerts—including good news or invitations from friends—can make it difficult to stay concentrated on what is at hand. To improve your focus and productivity, turn off notifications for non-essential apps during work hours.
Schedule specific times throughout the day to check messages and emails. This will allow you to pay attention to one task at a time and get more done in less time. In other words, work smarter.
Tip 2: Protect Your Rest Time
Just as it’s important to set boundaries around work time, it’s equally important to protect our rest time. When we’re constantly connected to work-related activities, we’re not allowing ourselves to fully recharge. If we are not fully recharged, our work will also suffer when we return to it.
Rest and play are essential for our physical and mental well-being, so carve out time for them in your schedule. When we don’t get enough joy and refreshment, our cognitive functions and mood suffer.
So, while having fun, treating yourself, or spending quality time with loved ones, put up an internal and external ‘do not disturb’ sign. Your mental wellbeing is essential.
Tip 3: Communicate Your Boundaries
Let your colleagues, friends, and family members know that you’re making a conscious effort to limit distractions both at work and during down time. This will help them understand why you may not be responding to messages or emails as quickly as they’re used to.
Talking about your new way of being will also help promote a healthier, more sustainable culture. It may take some time for others to adjust, but in the long run, it is one step towards benefiting everyone’s productivity and well-being.
While humans can’t expect to describe themselves as “always” happy, we sure as heck shouldn’t settle for “never” happy or even “seldom” happy. I propose we do an experiment on ourselves: let’s limit distractions, protect our rest time, communicate our boundaries, and then find out how much happier (and productive) we can get!