Teachers – Multitasking – Really? Or Are You Actually Less Effective and Efficient?

MultitaskingIs multi-tasking possible or is it a delusion?  Teachers know that when they are focused, they are far more efficient, effective, and energized.  And, educators recommend that their students focus.  This is a case of ‘physician, heal thyself.’  This article shares ideas about what happens when you focus – and what happens when you don’t.

Teachers in multi-track year-round (MTYR) schools are amazing to watch on the day before a track break. In one day, they have to

  • pack up their classrooms so another teacher can move in,
  • put away all their teaching materials so they’re ready for when their students are back on track,
  • move everything to a designated storage area (while other teachers are getting things out of the same storage area), and
  • just generally close out a 9 or 10 week teaching session (oh, and grades are due, too).

It is a sight to see. The teachers are focused, efficient, and energized.

Are there any lessons from this example? Actually, yes.

Teachers in this situation are focused because they know exactly what they need to do (pack up, put away, move, close out, enter grades). They are efficient because they have had to develop a system for this process (since it happens 3 or 4 times each year) and because there is a time constraint. If they aren’t efficient, there are consequences. They are energized because there is a buzz of activity (and they know they are going “off track” the next day). They might even be going on a little vacation – at least we can wish for that for them!

As another way of reflecting on this, let’s think about middle and high school teachers. Secondary teachers (and upper elementary teachers), in particular, try to convey to their students that they need to be being focused, efficient, and energized. The premier secondary students have so much going on that they can easily become overwhelmed. Knowing this, their teachers encourage students to consider ways of getting themselves ‘in the moment,’ i.e.,

  • when doing their homework, students should focus on homework not on whether they will be chosen for a part in the play.
  • when they are having pizza with friends, then students should focus on that moment, rather than obsessing over a test the next day.
  • when they are taking a test, students should focus on the questions and tasks in front of them, not on what will happen if they don’t get a good grade on the exam.

So, given these examples, let’s see if we can imagine someone saying to us, “Physician, heal thyself.” As educators, we need to be in the moment and avoid multitasking, which is actually impossible. The truth is that rather than leading to additional efficiency, a split focus leads to overwhelm and less productivity.

Ann McGee Cooper, former teacher and now speaker and author, commented that sometimes you must slow down to go faster. Your effectiveness as an educator and as a human being depends on your intention to be where you are (and no where else) and to do what you are doing (and nothing else).

Is there an area of your professional life where you need and want to be more productive, i.e., more focused, efficient, and energized? Then refuse to multitask. You actually can decide that once you are aware of its costs.

hotspotsAnd if you’d like to learn to be more productive you will want to access the teleseminar Identify and Capitalize on Your Own Productivity “Hot Spots”. Throughout your days and your weeks, you have “hot spots” where you have the potential to be optimally productive. It is during these times that you can be “in the zone,” working at “Mach 10,” and getting things done that are of the most benefit to you and your company.

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