We frequently hear from patients and survivors troubled by treatment side effects that make it difficult to concentrate at work. There are a number of simple techniques we recommend that make it easier to stay organized and focused. Arguably the most effective of these tips is to let go of the tendency to multitask on the job, because as a recent article on LiveScience.com explains, you were probably never good at it to begin with.
According to Arthur B. Markman, PhD, who was interviewed for the piece, only a very small percentage of people are “decent multitaskers” (he says 10%; we’ve seen estimates as low as 2%). This is because the structure of the human brain lets us process only a limited amount of information at one time. Yet despite our biology, the average person jumps between tasks every three minutes — and that can lead to increased stress levels.
Dr. Markman does acknowledge that certain tasks that use separate mental and physical resources may be combined effectively (think chopping veggies while listening to the radio). But combining tasks in which each requires considerable focus is likely to lead to mistakes. (Think chopping veggies while reading a novel. Ouch!)
In other words, if you are feeling stressed and struggling to focus at work, ask yourself whether you’re prone to multitasking. In this age of smartphones and Google, most of us are and most of us are terrible at it — regardless of our health history. So don’t take it personally, and know that there’s an easy fix: Simplify and start focusing on one thing at a time.
For more tips on working through treatment, check out the following: