In our culture, the ability to multitask is often worn as a badge of honour. Picture the heroic manager who can lead a virtual meeting while simultaneously drafting emails, responding to urgent texts from their family and brewing the next pot of coffee to keep the machine humming along.
But the reality is that multiple studies have proven that multitasking is a myth. At least one person, Dave Crenshaw, has even written a book on the subject: The Myth of Multitasking: How “doing it all” gets nothing done.
“Trying to multitask may feel effective, but it’s actually counterproductive,” says Crenshaw.
Don’t believe it? Try this little exercise. Grab a pen, blank piece of paper and open the stopwatch feature on your phone. Start the stopwatch and time yourself writing out the numbers 1 to 26, and then the letters A to Z. Next, time yourself writing the same two series of numbers and letters but alternating between the two sets. So: 1, A, 2, B, 3, C, et cetera until you get to 26, Z.
How did you do with the second series? Odds are it will take you nearly twice as long to say as the first series and you likely made several mistakes. It might even have felt a bit stressful. Why? Because your brain is being forced to switch gears and focus. This is known as “switch tasking.”
Yes, it is true that it’s possible to effectively manage some simple tasks simultaneously. For example, listening to your favourite podcast while you fold laundry or do the dishes. But these are background tasks or “back tasking.”
As this simplified exercise shows, switch tasking actually takes longer than focussing on one thing at a time and increases the likelihood of introducing errors.
The point of all this is to highlight the fact that whether you’re writing your next set of News Canada articles, drafting a business proposal or trying craft a supportive message for your team, your writing requires – and deserves – your undivided attention.
Set aside some dedicated time where you won’t be interrupted so you can focus on the task at hand. Find a quiet place – or put on some ambient music if you prefer. Put your phone on silent mode and turn off your notifications. Close your email and other online communications platforms.
You’ll get the job done faster, better and won’t have the stress of juggling multiple projects crowding your mind.
Still stumped? News Canada’s team of writers can take care of the writing for you. Contact your account manager for rates. And we promise we will focus on one thing and one thing only while we’re working on your words!
How to use your extra words
Speaking of words, News Canada recently expanded the word count for submissions. The 1,000-word package has been bumped up to 1,500-words, and instead of 2,000 words you can now submit up to 3,000.
Part of the reason for this is that we have had several editors reach out to us saying they needed longer articles to fill holes. In some cases, they were combining two different articles to meet their needs. Others were asking about more diversity of content to target niche audiences or produce themed issues.
The longer word counts will give you the opportunity to address both of those needs and increase the pickup for your content.
So maybe think about producing three articles around 300 words in length, and then one at 500 words. If you don’t think you have enough material to sustain that length, maybe you could play around with shorter formats: say, a short introductory paragraph followed by a series of bullet-point lists (aka listacles).
You can also experiment with a mix of evergreen, mass appeal stories alongside one for a more targeted audience. Editors are always looking for holiday themed material, so consider a piece focussed on upcoming holidays (Family Day) and celebrations (Valentine’s Day), while the rest of your stories are evergreen so they’ll still get pickup after those events have passed.
Finally, a reminder that deadlines for February content are:
- Topic briefs: December 1, 2022
- Article drafts: December 12, 2022
- Radio production briefs: January 3, 2023
- Video production briefs: December 1, 2022