Person to Person: Hey! Give Friends, Family Your Full Attention

By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen
Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Wellness experts say one of the biggest reasons to stop multi-tasking is that it’s very mentally draining to you. To prove that FOCUS works better, Judi, Emma and Ted have a few practical suggestions you may want to try over the following this week, (For example: Setting a very short deadlines for chores)

Tribune News Service

Do your to-do lists for both home and work run on endlessly? Do you wonder how you’ll chisel them down to size?

Maybe you’ve tried a few tricks, but one of your favorite coping tools might be multi-tasking. Doing two or three things at once might be second-nature to you.

While this can work at times, it pays to focus more and jump around less. Friend, family and co-workers will feel slighted, if you fail to give them their due attention.

“Our business associates can notice the juggling approach, too,” says a realtor we’ll call Andrea.

“I once held an open house for a client and planned a wedding over the phone simultaneously. My client got angry when she heard me on the phone, and fired me on the spot!”

A friend of ours we’ll call Phillip says he tried to conduct business calls on his honeymoon.

“My bride works in my office, so she understood,” Phillip told us. “But, as I think back, that was an utterly dumb thing to do!”

One of the biggest reasons to stop multi-tasking so much, however, is that it’s very mentally draining to you. To prove that focus works better, try the following this week:

-Set very short deadlines for chores. For example, give yourself five minutes to load the dishwasher before leaving for work. Don’t do anything else in between. Or, change the print cartridge before you leave the office, no excuses. Notice how quickly you can accomplish something if you don’t get sidetracked.

-Finish up one work-related task at a time. Resist multi-tasking as much as possible. For example, type up documents for a work meeting at one sitting, even if it takes two hours. Or, make five phone calls in a row, instead of taking all afternoon to complete them.

-Tell people what you need and when. For example, tell your son, “I want you to clean your bedroom Saturday morning from 9-11.” Or, tell your co-worker, “I need those letters for our clients ready for my review by noon tomorrow.” Don’t be vague or others will stretch your deadlines.

The whole idea of working in an organized fashion, without multi-tasking, can help you find more quality time for relationships.

“I was hugging a friend outside a restaurant,” says an associate of ours we’ll call Becky. “She was wriggling and talking away as I gave her a big squeeze. I hadn’t seen her in five years.”

However, the woman getting hugged was already jumping ahead. As Becky was trying to show her affection, her distracted friend was waving at people across the parking lot.

“I thought I might be over-reacting when I felt hurt,” Becky explains. “But, when I went up to the restaurant door to go inside, I turned around and made a little comment. I said, ‘Gosh, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen you,’ or something to that effect.”

At that point, Becky got another punch to the gut. Her so-called friend wasn’t interested in chit-chat.

All she said to Becky was: “Hurry!” She was more interested in getting into the restaurant than stopping to say hello to a friend she hadn’t seen in five years.

All of us can give other people the impression they fit very low on our scale of interest. By taking better control of our tasks, we can give people the focused attention they deserve.
(Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe, Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)

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