Obviously, the highest type of efficiency is that which can utilize existing material to the best advantage.
What did you finish today? What about yesterday?
Does it seem like you are having more and more days where it feels like you are just spinning your wheels and not completing tasks?
The End of Multitasking
Gone are the days where you can answer the phone and write an email while completing the data entry that really needs to be done. Studies have shown that workers that attempt to focus on too many tasks take longer to complete each task and have more errors than workers that complete one task at a time.
With constant interruptions from digital communication, our collective attention span has shortened.
According to this study; Even during our down time, people are multitasking with their media and other leisure activities. Individuals who surf the internet while they watch television refocus their attention 4 times per minute, with younger people switching their attention more frequently than older study participants.
With the constant loss of focus, it becomes discouraging for many to even start on complex tasks so procrastination becomes order of the day.
Single-Tasking is the New Multitasking
Single-tasking or other task-related time management methods have been growing in popularity. Methods like Pomodoro and others focus on the idea of time being set aside to devote to a single task at a time. Once the timer has counted down, you get a reward of a break, change gears to the next most important item on the list, or decide to focus more time on the prior task. If the task is completed before the timer chimes in, workers are to review their work to see if they can improve it so growth is part of the method.
Having a list helps greatly. Taking about five minutes to prioritize current assignments and tasks will help you transition from one work flow to another. More gets thrown on our plate as the day progresses, so update the list as needed.
The goal is to accomplish the list that you had decided during that original five minute session. The complete task, project, or assignment does not need to be completed during the time allotted. Many find using the method to budget time for more complex activities. Also, not all tasks require scheduling and a portion of dedicated time.
Ready, Set, Go!
Timers are extremely helpful. Old school kitchen timers, stopwatches, alarms, and apps designed to help you with time management are available. Utilize what you already have, but be ready to reconsider your time a management tools as you get more acclimated this way of working.
As a master list, software and applications such as Google Tasks, HiTask, Nozbe, Remember the Milk, and the Tasks within Microsoft Office or even your smart phone allow for scheduling, note keeping, and file linking to maximize performance and arranging of the master list of projects and tasks.
Benefits of Using a Timer
By using a timer, you are dedicating that time to the task. You can see the time counting down to your reward of a break or you can see how long you can spend improving on the work that you are doing. By using a timer, you also have a tactile commitment to avoiding distractions, some people even elect for a timer that makes a ticking sound to help focus.
Not Now… I’m “in the zone”
Start by turning off email notification pop-ups, consider silencing your phone, close your office door, put on headphones with white noise playing, or go “off the grid” if needed. Do not allow the world that is so full of distractions to interrupt you. You are working toward something.
The Benefits of Focusing on One Task at a Time
Studies have shown that individuals work better when focusing on one task at a time. Once participants were given two tasks to complete at the same time, they shifted focus to whichever task yielded the greater reward. Once they were instructed to complete three tasks, they would regularly forget one of the tasks that they were asked to perform.
The short list of benefits:
- Your focus improves as you work within a single-tasking method.
- You become better at managing your time and arranging your schedule to complete items
- Your work quality increases as you finish items and have time to review and revise your work.
- You are able to keep appointments and deadlines because you have banked work into a project over a period of time rather than doing a concentrated crunch of work.
- You become more efficient in that you are not losing the time spent switching between tasks and refocusing
- Your stress levels reduce as you are not tracking multiple items and wasting focus on keeping progress straight on each item
Working realistically within a single-tasking management technique
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
The world will interrupt you, this is to be expected. Try to get back on track if things get a little haywire. You may not be able to complete your list, but you are at least completing items and making progress on projects that may otherwise have been ignored due to all of the balls being in the air at the same time.
Maybe a timer method is not for you. Maybe using a calendar and scheduling important tasks that require your attention is the way to go. Maybe you need to adjust your workflow so that certain tasks are completed after you’ve had your coffee. Whether you go full-boar and stick with time management techniques like Pomodoro or adopt more of a laid-back time budgeting approach, you will see positive results. And feel that sense of accomplishment when you cross that item off of your list.