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The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time

25% to 50% of people say they feel burned out at work. Are we becoming less industrious? Do we need to keep a stiff upper lip and just stop complaining, or has something changed? According to Tony Schwartz, something has changed, and it’s the environment of multi-tasking: people are in meetings while checking email and reviewing slides for another presentation. This all adds up on a person’s ability to cope with the business they conduct and,  as Schwartz points out, doesn’t really help: The biggest cost — assuming you don’t crash — is to your productivity. In part, that’s a simple consequence of splitting your attention, so that you’re partially engaged in multiple activities but rarely fully engaged in any one. In part, it’s because when you switch away from a primary task to do something else, you’re increasing the time it takes to finish that task by an average of 25 per cent. But most insidiously, it’s because if you’re always doing something, you’re relentlessly burning down your available reservoir of energy over the course of every day, so you have less available with every passing hour. Schwartz recommends a few steps that help a person more appropriately define the beginning and end of work, including meeting discipline (a 45 minute meeting will run only 45 minutes), getting rid of the demand for instant email responses, and (as a manager), encouraging team members to step away from work at least once a day to recharge.

About Anne Grybowski

Anne is a former staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success, with a degree in Media Studies from Penn State University.

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