Multitasking came up as a topic yesterday. I was leading a group of Managing Directors through my virtual program Presenting with Telepresence and was encouraging them to get mentally present.

The Myth of Multitasking

Being in-the-moment is at the heart of good stage presence and executive presence. Being mentally present keeps you sharp and focused. Multitasking makes you dumb. We do it because we think it makes us more productive, but a study from University of London found participants who multi-tasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ drops of about 15 points. Multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child!

What to do?

The demands of work, life and family often pull us in many directions at once. Leaders with strong executive presence and good telepresence are disciplined with their focus.

Five Tips to Improve Your Focus

Here are five tips to help you get focused too:

  1. Turn off notifications on all of your apps. They are distracting you.
  2. Shut down your email when you are working on an important task or PowerPoint that requires deep thinking.
  3. Set a timer for 20 – 30 minutes and focus on ONE thing during that time.
  4. Figure out what time of day you are mentally sharpest and book that time off in your calendar as thinking time. Guard it carefully. As best as you can, don’t take calls or attend meeting during this time. For me that’s from 10:00 – 11:30 am. (I’m writing this post at 11:00 am on a Tuesday, in fact.)
  5. When you start to feel mentally fuzzy or overwhelmed, stand up, walk around and take 6 deep breaths to get the blood flowing back to your brain.

Get More Present, Have More Presence

Multitasking is a myth. What you are actually doing is task switching. It lowers productivity AND undermines your impact.

It’s simple. Get more present. Have more presence.