Five ways to be more productive (hint, it doesn’t include multitasking)

We have this misunderstanding in our society that to be successful you have to be doing ten things at a time. And if you can’t “multitask”, well, you just won’t prosper.  People wear it like a badge of honor. Interestingly, you can find study after study that disproves this fallacy. It’s actually anti-productive to multi-task.

Has this ever happen to you: you have a project you need to really think about and you’re on a deadline. You are making progress, when an email pops up.  Instead of letting it sit for five (or fifteen minutes) you stop what you are doing and go check the email.

A New York Times article written by Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine. She found that a typical office worker gets only 11 minutes between each interruption. While it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption. Googling this subject brings up amazing amounts of information supporting this research, yet we keep putting on our multitasking badge everyday.  

Instead, this week dedicate yourself to the art of not multitasking see how different it feels to let yourself focus.  

Here’s five things you can do to help reach this goal:

  1. First thing Monday morning, spend 10 minutes perusing your calendar and start to manage your time.  Don’t forget it is YOUR time.
    • Decline or ask for the host to reschedule double-booked meetings.
    • If you’ve been invited to a meeting and there’s no information about the subject matter, contact the host and ask about your role and if you need to prepare anything.  You may find out you don’t actually need to attend and get an hour back.
    • If you see a big meeting on Thursday, put time on your calendar the day or two before to specifically prepare for that meeting.
  2. Schedule YOUR time during the day.
    • The first and last hour of the day are great times to put “work time” on your calendar. This will allow you to truly focus on the work you need to get done.
  3. Make your daily to-do list.  Put it down on paper, in your phone, on your computer – whatever works for you AND prioritize it.  Keep space on that list as other things will certainly get added throughout the day. This allows you to capture all in one place, instead of twenty.  
  4. Make a plan for email time. We had a friend who only checked email three times a day. He’d use 15 – 30 minutes at 8:30, 11:30 and 4:30 to correspond. That might not work for you but maybe try 10 minutes every hour instead. Whatever your preference, just allocate that time instead of letting the email allocate it for you (as in: whenever one pops up).
  5. Get outside and take a walk.
    • This sounds crazy during a busy day yet you will be amazed at how a little fresh air can add perspective.

Give this a try for a week, and let us know how it went… and please share any other ideas as well.