Multi-tasking myth busted

Nicola - Tuesday, April 28, 2015

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I often hear people talking about how they have so much happening in their life that they are constantly juggling and ‘multi-tasking’. The problem is that rather than managing better they are creating more work and stress for themselves. The brain does not multi-task, rather it toggles very fast between tasks so rapidly that we perceive it as seamless concentration on multiple things.

Research indicates that people actually longer to complete tasks and are more likely to make errors. As the brain switches attention between tasks gaps occur – things drop out of online thinking. We need to redress the gap between research and perceptions of multi-tasking, especially as the idea of ‘multi-tasking’ is highly valued. Multi-tasking leads to inefficiency and errors, and creates undue stress.

• Do one thing at a time – uni-task
• Write a list of your things to do and systematically work through it and cross off items as you go so you feel accomplished
• When interrupted quickly jot down where you where /what you were doing when so you can return back to the task efficiently
• Get a routine to save brain power from organising yourself everyday
• Reduce the number of minor decisions – eat the same breakfast, establish a ‘work uniform’– so you can be creative and productive
• Schedule email, Facebook, twitter etc. at specific times and ignore them outside those times
• Switch-off devices and arrange to have no interruptions when you need to concentrate

Recharge the family battery

Nicola - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

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Counting down to the school holidays? Chances are you relish the quieter unhurried pace and the lower stress levels.   Holidays provide a valuable break from frenetic school routine and a wonderful opportunity to enjoy positive shared experiences and build resilience.  Start the habit of ‘family time’ when children are young so you remain connected when they are teens and older.  After meeting well over 1500 older adults I can tell you they rate family as the greatest treasure and asset in life. If you want to be part of your children’s adult lives, and possibly involved grandparents, invest now.  Today is a gift that is why it is called the present!

Make the school holidays count – you don’t have to go away or spend lots of money to create wonderful family experiences.  As only 25% of families actually eat the evening meal together – holidays may be a time to arrange meals together.  For younger children the fun of mixing up meals for the day can be fun – like dessert for breakfast, dinner at lunch  or having a meal as an inside picnic.  For older children choosing a country or cuisine and developing a menu and everyone cooking a course can be fun -as an activity together and a great family meal at the end. – you could even end the night with no screens and play charades, cards, board games, go for a walk……

A day out can include simple options like picnics, family bush walks, catching different modes of transport for a day with a family pass – think buses, ferries, trains, having a pajama day of board games, exploring different children’s parks in other suburbs, or a ‘Sunday drive’.  All provide opportunities to build closer ties by sharing experiences, talking, being relaxed together.  Another option is for each family member to write down an adventure idea (think ice skating, visiting a museum, going to an aquatic centre, a craft / hobbie centre, Blue Mountains or day trip, fishing at Manly Dam, indoor rock climbing……) and place it in a box and draw options out randomly – this is especially good as it teaches children / young people they can continue and have autonomy and influence and everyone must go on each adventure even if they don’t want too.

Being connected and having shared positive emotional experiences acts like glue- keeping everyone positively bonded.  Research shows this has too many positive physical and mental health benefits to list here but includes better cardio-vascular function, higher immunity, greater resilience, less stress, anxiety and depression, and ultimately a longer more satisfying life.