Multi tasking means doing lots of stuff poorly at the same time. We pretend to be working on all these tasks at one time and yet always seem to be behind on our to do list. We seemingly never get ahead on anything. Whether it is job related computer work, business data organizing, or simply getting our personal digital items in some kind of order, we always seem to be playing catch up. Maybe if we would focus on just one item on the to do list at a time, we might actually reduce the list overall. Working on one thing at a time may seem like a snail like technique in the busy world of 2014. However, focusing intensely on one thing is a proven way to get the job done and even better, get it done at a high level.
Jumping from tab to tab on your browser, copying and pasting on six different spreadsheets unrelated to each other, or emailing and texting simultaneously may seem like the best way to get more done in less time. But are we really making any progress or giving the proper attention to important tasks? I doubt it. I am sure there are some big brained folks out there who can do a wonderful job juggling eight different things at once. Those people are the outliers though. Most of us would do much better to move slower and more deliberately one task at a time.
That is an easy strategy to put on paper and much harder to implement on a regular basis. There are so many distractions that will keep us bouncing around as if we are in a “whack-a-mole” game. Try to do research on work project and a sidebar ad on your laptop will pull you down a “get a six pack in 23 seconds” rabbit hole for a good ten minutes. Try getting your quarterly tax numbers ready, only to be disrupted by a text from your buddy talking about the Cowboys’ loss last night. That breaks your concentration, not to mention it reminds you how mad you were about the game when you first saw the outcome. The point is, it’s hard to focus when so many things can break our concentration. Luckily there are some ways that can help us stay on task. Some tools are made possible by the same technology that distracts us in the first place. Here are a few to help you if you have trouble getting anything done. Some are very simple, but if you actually implement them, you are bound to be more productive.
- There is a little button on your smartphone called “airplane mode”. I really didn’t know about this feature since I never fly. I used it on a cruise to keep from getting outrageous roaming fees but still have my camera on my phone available. Airplane mode keeps you from getting any calls, messages, or notifications of any kind. Believe it or not, you will survive without contact for an hour or two.
- If you have to do any writing for your work, then it is best to use a program that takes up the entire screen. I use “WriteMonkey” and it is as basic as can be. There is nothing on the peripheral to get my eyes to wandering. It is clean and simple. It is basically a blank notepad with tools to help with writing but only available in a popup menu. There are many other minimalist writing apps available. Some will even lock you into the program for a certain amount of time or words, forcing you to actually write before moving on to the next task.
- Clutter makes most people’s heads swim. It is hard to concentrate with papers all over the desk along with receipts, and candy wrappers. The simpler the work space, the better your mind will work. If you have the space to do so, I would suggest trying an extreme way to get focused. Have a room with only a desk and chair. No furniture, no pictures, nothing. Just you, a place to sit, a place to hold your computer and that is it. You may not need that kind of emptiness for everyday work, but for tough projects or big decisions, that is a great way to get laser focus.
- Readability is a Chrome extension that makes reading so much better online. It takes the actual parts of a web page that are meant to be read and clears out the rest for a clean look that you can actually focus on. It is hard to get the full depth of an important article when you have animated advertisements on the sidebar of the page. This little app will remove all that visual noise.
- Decide what is truly important to you. Make a list, a spreadsheet, or send your future self a letter. There are only 168 hours in a week. You must decide what you are going to do with that time and be intentional about it. That means you will have to cut some things out of you life in order to make room for new ones. If you are super busy, then you need to make a choice each time a new time eater comes your way. You can add things but make a commitment to yourself that you will only add something once you let another time consuming thing go. It is the only way to have any free time and to give the proper attention to the things already in your life.