Multitasking Despite the Warnings? 4 Strategies to Sharpen Your Attention Span

Last Updated Mar 11, 2011 7:25 PM EST

Reader opinions differ, but here at Business Hacks we're coming to believe that multitasking is counterproductive, inefficient, and a danger to your effectiveness at work. Not only have studies shown that multitasking makes everything take longer than if you just single tasked our way through the day, but last week, the Tony Schwartz in the Harvard Business Review suggested that multitasking is reducing your attention span and effectively giving you ADD:
Back in 1971 - the digital dark ages before cell phones, email, Google and the Internet - Nobel Prize winning economist Herbert Simon saw the tsunami coming. "What information consumes is rather obvious," he wrote, presciently. "It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention."
No matter how much we warn you about multitasking, though, I suspect you're not going to give it up. It's just too ingrained in corporate culture -- heck, I write about the dangers of multitasking, and I'm unlikely to stop doing it anytime soon. So instead, Schwartz has suggested 4 strategies for taking back control of your attention span and being more effective with your time:
  1. Do the most important thing of the day first thing in the morning, for 60 to 90 minutes without interruption.
  2. Chunk your e-mail into batches through the day.
  3. Take short breaks through the day.
  4. To make up for all your e-mail and tweeting, do something intellectually challenging (like reading a book) every evening for at least 30 minutes.
Photo courtesy Flickr user gcoldironjr2003