Some days are terribly exhausting – and terribly unsatisfactory. Then I chase after information the whole day, add small details in various projects and try to meet the requirements of others. It’s as unwise as it sounds. And yet it happens. Organizational chaos arises because we humans usually work together with other people. And people don’t act synchronously, so they keep interrupting each other.
It is then difficult for the brain to form memories. It does not save information that is immediately overwritten by new impressions. After all, the perception signaled directly: is irrelevant, next please. And at the end of the day we have no idea what exactly we were doing. Many small fragments add up to a big whole: Chaos.
Feels good – but doesn’t last
At work it even feels – sometimes – productive and in a positive way wild to do many things at the same time, to achieve a lot, to do everything justice. And at the end of the day, many people first get the feeling: It was crazy, I don’t even know what I did – but I was good. This impression can be a bit addicting.
The problem: It doesn’t stay that way. At the end of a week, you may still be proud. At the end of a month, the review looks different. Somehow milky and badly whisked, only particularly caustic moments remain in the brain at the end of the day. What we have actually achieved is gone because the brain had no chance of storing it. Constantly switching between tasks exhausts us.
But the good feeling in the evening does not depend on having successfully navigated through a storm. The experience of making a difference and controlling one’s own (work) life also characterizes a good working day. This may be less wild, but it is more productive with a lower error rate. A few fine adjustments in everyday life make the evening more beautiful:
Act instead of react
It’s actually unbelievable that I still have to write that. But don’t let yourself be interrupted! Colleagues who are important enough to interrupt you should actually understand that this is precisely what harms your work. The error rate increases massively even after short interruptions. There are jobs in which you have to constantly react to others. But it’s less than people think. Many simply have to learn to regain control over their days.
Create focus space
If you leave tabs open “for later” during a phase of concentrated work, you have created the distraction yourself. Smartphones that are not needed at the moment, e-mails that are not urgent – yes, even the sacred Slack and Teams channels are actually only invitations to others to tear us out of focus. Apps and programs not only run on their devices, they also run as processes in the background of the brain. If you want to concentrate, you should have the phone in the next room, close tabs – and free the desktop from contaminated sites. They are just unnecessary distractions and prevent us from fully engaging with the current task.
Assign times to task fields
Anyone who has to switch from one task to another often is badly organized. It sounds harsh, but it really is that simple. Many people have several things to do in one day and often the deadlines don’t go well together. Hopefully, with a few days of smart planning, this will soon be resolved. Even if there are only phases of an hour or even half an hour: Tasks that are important enough to be done also deserve their own time slot. The day feels better the evening before. It becomes easier to see. At the end of the day, this effect is reinforced again. The day loses its pulp, the individual tasks can be seen better.
People are not able to do two things at the same time – except for normal bodily functions. But listening to a meeting and transferring numbers to a spreadsheet? It does not work. Read a report and listen to the radio? It does not work. Supervising toddlers and doing something that should end up looking professional? Nope. Multitasking is inefficient because the brains always need a certain amount of time to adapt and because thoughts are lost in between. It works just like interruptions. The brain stores less well. In the end, less work is done and the only thing left in mind is that the day was stressful. Which is also true.
The feeling of having worked a lot and achieved little results from an organizational problem. And organizational problems are manageable. The ideas I have mentioned here are examples. They all have one thing in common: they demand initiative. But it is worth taking the initiative. Anyone who can review their tasks in advance and retrospectively gains an inner peace that serves both work and the end of the day.