Modern society raises multi-tasking to such an Executive level. It’s been ingrained as a crucial skill needed to competitively perform in life.
Despite this we just can’t seem to effectively adapt it to our lives. There are times where we fall into a transient flow and it feels like we’re firing off emails left, right and centre in parallel with marking up a report with our critical and well thought out comments, all while being on a conference call. In those moments, you feel as though you’ve mastered multi-tasking. However, on reflection, what was your contribution to the meeting and how much did you retain? Were your emails clear or did they create confusion and break down communication?
The immediate sense of stimulation generates a short burst of faux achievement. After a relatively short period, we’ve also found that this drains our willpower and mental energy and worsens when you come to realise that the task you thought you completed this morning is actually far from sufficient.
This creeps up on us in many forms. Given how attentive we are to external stimulants; we’re wired to fleet from one topic to another. Try to recall the last time you wanted to think through one problem when you were walking home. What was that thought? Can’t remember? That’s probably because your mind raced through so much content from your surroundings. In essence, we now replicate this situation at our desks where solitude and focus is key to execution.
Think about how you open multiple tabs when you set out to read one article. Did you glance at your phone in the middle of reading this post?
There are a series of small actions we undertake that detract us from accomplishing what we set out to do. What we should strive for is a serious focus on the task at hand. Try the following to complete more:
Write your one objective down before undertaking the next task. Tape it somewhere you can see. Check in a quarter of the way through your task and see whether you’re still working towards that goal (set an alarm if you need a reminder). Reel yourself in if needed. This will cultivate your mental focus and discipline.
Make it bite size
Read short passages and texts to completion and by word. Sure if it’s a contract or some large document then there’s a process to examine the contents and skip to the important and relevant sections. There’s no need for this when it comes to short texts such as email. Read it word for word so you don’t miss any points and have to read it twice.
One tab only
Open only one browser tab. This will support you in reading one thing. Even if you’re only opening others for future reference it becomes a temptation that sits in the back of your mind. It creates a secondary objective inducing you to rush through the primary task at hand so that you can rush through tasks and feel like you’ve completed o’ so many tasks. You can revisit article links once you’ve finished reading and contemplating. The same applies to your phone; keep it to one app at a time.
Have a messy notebook with you. The key for many here is ‘messy’. Some of us fall into the trap of perfection which manifests in only writing neat and well thought out actions or records in the notebook. We encourage you to dump all your brain data as it arises so you can concentrate. The less time you spend thinking about it the better. Just scribbling it on the next available piece of space is a great way to foster this. You will tidy this later if needed.
Pen and paper
Print it out. Then take it to a room with nothing in it. A meeting room is ideal if you’re in the workplace. Bring a red pen and start reading. Remember how you learned growing up by reading, thinking and annotating?
What our teachers told us
Pull those earphones out. Your productivity is so much lower when you’re trying to think or write while listening to music. Although it helps if the music has no lyrics and is more calming, you can perform much better without the noise. Unless you’re undertaking more menial tasks, listen to it later.
Since letting go of the need for multitasking and addressing our habits we’ve found that we complete 30% more tasks which in the scheme of getting things done across life adds up to a sizeable amount.
Implement a more focused approach now and start to fulfil more in your life.