Your response is probably going to be that you HAVE to do more than one thing at once in order to get everything done. Sigh. Let’s look at that argument from a scientific point of view. Multitasking is in fact switching between several tasks all the time. Each time you switch you need a bit of time to readjust to what you need to do. All that readjustment time is nothing but lots time and effort.
Just imagine NOT switching all the time, getting one thing done first and then move on to the next item. And by then you’ll have saved a lot of time AND a much clearer mind that is not clouded by that constant switching motion. This leads to longer units that I like to call blocks – time blocks.
What are those ‘blocks’ all about?
It has been proven to increase productivity if you can plan ‘blocks’ of work focused on one task rather than multitask all day long. There are different ideas on how long those blocks should be: I think this is really up to each person and the specifics of the tasks at hand, but I believe that starting out with blocks of 30 or 45 minutes is a good idea. The theory here is that each block is followed by a 5-10 minute rest period: that could be a tea break, a bit of exercise, or a chat break… anything that will take your mind off the task for a moment or to reset you for the next one, whatever does the job.
I have found that a 1-2-3 approach seems to work for me: doing one “task block (1)” followed by a short “review block (2)” (that involves reviewing incoming messages, identifying actionable items and assigning them into the next available block rather than doing them straight away) and then the “break block (3)”. I’m not personally very hung up on uniform length of those blocks as I believe that some focused tasks take longer than others and require a certain flexibility when it comes to the length of those blocks. My main concern is to focus on the task block, then review new evidence, then break. And then start the next task block. Simple, right?
You may wonder about the “review block”: this is a result of my tactics that I do not react to incoming messages right away. I have turned off notifications on my laptop and my phone and only react to phone calls if I have to. It’s requires a bit of adjustment, and learning to ignore reminders and notifications, but once you get there, you’ll be able to completely focus on the one task you are doing just then.
Create blocks of time dedicated to the things that you tend to forget about, you don’t like doing, you find difficult, that need doing regularly,… and try to not be too religiously stuck with the blocks either. Find your own balance: maybe longer blocks work better for your type of activity, or you want more “review blocks” to allow for your particular communication situation. Maybe your blocks need to be different for each weekday, or they have to shift throughout the month due to shifting requirements.
Ultimately, you have to find a structure that works for you, stick to the system as much as possible while being flexible with yourself.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My mission: help clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.