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The repercussions of multitasking – and how to retrain your brain

You're immersed in your work when the ping of email alerts you to a message from a patient. You answer it quickly, stopping to text your spouse about your dinner plans, and then head into your next appointment. This may seem harmless, but multitasking can be more debilitating than we think. The more information you digest at one time, the less you ultimately retain. This is problematic in any professionbut perhaps most in the healthcare field.

"But I don't multitask!"

Many people claim they don't have a problem multitasking or don't regularly engage in it, but in reality, most of us do. Think about it this way: When you were a little kid working on a drawing, you had few things to distract you other than your own thoughts. You didn't have to look down at your phone when the texting alert went off, you didn't shuffle through your Spotify playlist to find the next song and you didn't click on that link to the latest news story. You were totally immersed in what you were doing.

An article by Fast Company (and extrapolated by the New Yorker) promotes the idea of "mindfulness meditation," a practice that helps people refocus their attention as they once did before the pervasive nature of devices and social media. The premise is simple: Understand when you've gotten off task, and return to what you're supposed to be working on.

The good news? Returning to mindfulness is pretty easy. Next time you find yourself spontaneously organizing the refrigerator in the break room, think about what you're supposed to be doing and return to that activity. Reallyit's that simple. Eliminating as many interruptions as you can will help immensely, as well. (Hint: Locum tenens assignments can help you focus more on patient care and less on paperwork and logistics.)

A final note: One of the most important elements of mindfulness is being present. We've all skimmed through an email or two while thinking of the weekend plansbut it only means we're going to have to read it again.

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