How Multitasking is Actually Destroying Your Productivity

January 26th, 2017 by

You probably think you’re a multitasking master; we all do to some extent. Right now, you’re probably reading this post, finishing up a text to your roommate and jamming to some tunes, all while contemplating what you’re making for dinner tonight. The truth is, multitasking actually makes you less productive… significantly less productive.

4453018910_613ea8d637_zThe term multitasking first appeared in the 1960’s as a term to describe computer functions, not people. The word was created to describe a computer’s ability to quickly perform many tasks at once. Multiple tasks sharing one resource — the CPU. However, the term has since been taken on to mean multiple tasks being completed at the same time by one resource — a person.

Unlike a computer, the human brain cannot process multiple tasks quickly. Every time you switch between tasks or thoughts, it takes your brain seconds to minutes to refocus and actually complete the task. Some research suggests that avid multitaskers actually lose up to 40 percent of their productivity each day attempting to multitask.

Multitasking during meetings or conversations is especially unproductive, even rude. If you’re checking your email or social media accounts during a call or meeting, then you aren’t giving the person speaking your full attention. You’ll likely miss important facts and find yourself lost.

Having trouble breaking your multitasking habit? It may not be entirely your fault. When we multitask, the hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released, which overstimulate the brain and cause fuzzy thinking. This overstimulation occurs every time you finish reading a post, sending a text, etc. Your brain then rewards this overstimulation by releasing endorphins. This creates a feedback loop where you become unfocused and then rewarded. Essentially, your brain becomes addicted to multitasking.

Want to kick the habit? Try using a productivity technique that forces you focus on one task at a time. Maybe try the Pomodoro Technique (featured here) or maybe a simple to-do list to keep you on track. Better yet, take the Next Step Academy course on time management to remind you that you can do it all — just not all at once.


Summer 2017 Internships: Start Looking Now!

January 17th, 2017 by

The spring semester has just begun and summer break seems years away. However, in reality, there’s just short of 15 weeks until finals are finished and summer begins. If you’re hoping for an internship this summer, it’s time to start preparing now. Here are three questions you should be asking yourself to get the internship search started.

Do I even need an internship? Many science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields require entry level applicants to have prior experience in the form of internships. These include careers in architecture and the medical field, as well as all forms of engineering or research. Careers in the business, law, art and communication fields don’t necessarily require internships, however, internships are a great way to learn about your field and gain experience before entering the workforce.

Intern-1What do I want out of an internship? First, you may want an internship to help you decide what you want to do after you graduate. Over the course of your undergrad, you could potentially have two to four internships, each in a slightly different field so you can learn firsthand what your preferences are. For example, a communications student may want to get an internship at a newspaper, a radio station and at a public relations firm before deciding which career path they want to follow.

Second, you may want to use an internship to help guarantee yourself a job after graduation. If you’re already certain what field you want to work in, a summer internship can be used to build a relationship with a company. (Hint: Read Next Step Academy’s blog “How to Turn an Internship into a Career”)

How do I find an internship that fits my needs? Your first step should be speaking with an academic advisor in your department. Department advisors often have lists of open or upcoming internships. It’s also likely that your academic department already has a relationship with companies in your community that are always open to taking interns from your school. An academic advisor will be able to help you choose an internship that fits your current needs and career goals.

You can also use websites such as or general job search sites such as which have filter options specifically for internships. These sites are great if you want to look for internships outside of your local area. Also, make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and up to date. LinkedIn will send you job and internship suggestions and some companies recruit interns based on the information you put on your profile.


Sparkle in the New Year with these 3 Career Goals

January 3rd, 2017 by

Many people use the new year to facilitate change in their lives. Whether you want to find a new position or move your way up the ladder, here are three goals you should be setting in 2017 to make those changes a reality.

happy-new-year-tumblrPrioritize networking. Now is the perfect time to connect with people in your professional network. Who you know is going to be important when trying to establish and build your career. Ask business acquaintances out to coffee (quick, before peppermint mochas go away!) or use sites like to look for local professional events you can attend.

Polish up your resume. Make sure your experiences and skills are up to date on your resume. Also make sure you revamp your LinkedIn profile as well. Keeping these polished will make you more marketable to outside opportunities. If you’re considering a career change this year, you may also want to brush up on your interview skills.

Learn something new. Use the new year to learn a new skill which you can add to your newly polished resume. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to build a website or you’ve had a lingering interest in photography. Whatever you’re interested in, find a class or a book that can help you accelerate your career.


Creating and Achieving Goals in the New Year

December 29th, 2016 by

2016 is finally drawing to a close, which means it’s time to turn over a new leaf and start the new year strong and committed to new goals. If you tend to forget about your new year resolutions once February starts, here are five tips to help you create and actually achieve them in 2017.

new-year-586148_960_720Be realistic. Don’t choose goals that are too big to achieve in a year. Be realistic about how much time, effort or money the goal will take to complete.

Break it down. See if your larger goals can be broken down into smaller steps or benchmarks. Creating a concrete plan will make your goals seem more manageable and will help you stay accountable.

Talk about it. Let your friends and family know what your goals are and how you are working to achieve them. You’re more likely to stick to a goal if you have positive people in your life keeping you accountable. You may even find someone with the same goal who will work with you to achieve it.

Anticipate problems. Sometimes life gets in the way, causing us to get off track. Don’t let one problem allow you to throw away all of your progress. Anticipate what those problems or interruptions will be ahead of time and make a plan to overcome them.

Don’t beat yourself up. If you do slip up occasionally or get off track, make sure you don’t beat yourself up about it. When you feel yourself slipping, pick a day to refocus and adjust your plan if necessary. Nobody is perfect and it’s okay if you aren’t 100 percent on track as long as you are trying.

Happy New Year!


How To: Increase Your Productivity (Right Now)

October 20th, 2015 by

Still trying to get that report done, six hours later? If your productivity levels are quickly and steadily plummeting to the floor, it may be time for a change or two. Sure, getting 8 hours of sleep every night will probably help, and changing your diet may benefit you eventually…but you need to get the led out ASAP. Here’s how you can increase your productivity right now…


Put your phone away.

Turn on silent mode, and put your phone in your purse, desk drawer, or under your chair—wherever it will be out of sight. Also, close the tabs on your browser that have Twitter and Facebook open on them. (If your job requires you to be on social media, then turn off the notifications for your personal accounts.) The internet is the ultimate distraction. Combine that with your nagging desire to beat level 181 on Candy Crush, and messages from your mom about family dinner on Sunday, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a seriously unproductive and distracted day. So do yourself a favor, and disconnect from your smart phone. The world won’t end while you’re away from Twitter, your mom won’t be mad, and you’ll be exponentially more productive.

Stop trying to multitask.

Seriously, stop it. We all love to think we are fantastic multitaskers, and we like to think that we are better at it than everyone else. Sorry, but you are not a special and unique butterfly (in this situation, anyways). The fact of the matter is that it takes us (yes, everyone) more time to complete each task if we’re trying to complete more than one at the same time, and the quality of our work suffers. It takes us time to refocus as we switch from task to task—about 1/10 of a second each time, and that adds up quickly. No wonder productivity is an issue! Instead of trying to get everything done at the same time, focus on one task at a time. You’ll get things done much faster, and you’ll produce a better end product. This will also benefit you long term.

Make a list.                                                                               

Physically write out (or type) a list of the tasks you need to get done for the day or week. Start with the fastest, simplest tasks. Or, you can start with the task you’re really dreading and get it over with (that way it’s not looming over your head and distracting you from your other responsibilities). Having a tangible list will keep you focused on the task at hand, and keep you on track for a productive day. As you go along and complete each goal, cross it off your list. The feeling of accomplishment after you cross off each task will keep you motivated, and thus, productive!

Reward yourself for each completed task.

Awesome, you finished that report! Reward yourself with a short break—about 2 minutes. Go walk around, eat a bag of Skittles, or listen to a song that makes you happy. But resist the temptation to get on social media. A “two minute” break on Twitter will turn into 20 minutes. We all know it’s true. Giving yourself a breather in between each task will keep you energized, prevent boredom from setting in, and motivate you to complete tasks, all of which leads to increased productivity!


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