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“To do two things at the same time is to do neither” – Pubilius Syrus, Latin writer
I’ve actually got two quotes for this week’s motivational post! While the first one is simpler, I really had to put the second one in the section below. It reminds us that our brain focuses better when they focus on less.
What’s Wrong With Multi-tasking?
Haven’t we been told all along to be more productive, to master multi-tasking and to manage our schedules well? Well, it turns out that multitasking might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
“When we think we’re multitasking we’re actually multi-switching. That is what the brain is very good at doing – quickly diverting its attention from one place to the next. We think we’re being productive. We are, indeed, being busy. But in reality, we’re simply giving ourselves extra work” – Michael Harris
(I first saw this quote on this productivity quotes blog).
Do you ever catch yourself thinking about one task while working on another? I think this is what he means by “extra work”. Rather than focus, we wander.
What Is Batching, & Why Does It Work?
Actually, I first heard this strategy called “batching” in a Melyssa Griffin webinar. I’ve been doing this for years, though. (That being said, reading more about it has definitely made me do it more!)
Basically, instead of trying to work on multiple tasks at once, when you batch, you simply hyper-focus on one of them.
If you have a bunch of writing to do, do it all in the same day. Need to edit photos for your website, or create lesson plans for the week? Do it all in a day! Dedicate specific days to certain tasks. You’ll be surprised at how much more smoothly they go. Rather than stressing out over “everything you have to do” in a day, only do one thing, and do it well.
Here’s Why It Works:
- We focus better when we have one task on the go, and don’t let others distract us (Check out this Forbes article on short-term memory and multi-tasking)
- We say “no” to distracting tasks, even if they are other work tasks. This allows us to truly focus on the task we’ve committed to
- If we build in a bit of extra time and “bonus productivity slots” (as this blog post on the Crown calls them), we can ensure we work best. That is to say, we both handle emergencies that come up in these timeslots, but still focus on the key task at hand
Of course, there are still those who support the other side of the argument…
The Case For Multitasking
Now, having said all that – I do know people who are just as productive as I am who do prefer to multi-task. In fact, they prefer to work at little bits of everything throughout the day, instead of dedicating days to one task at a time. If you’re one of those people, please leave a note in the comments. Fill us in on your viewpoint!
Even within that strategy, though, I feel that you could split up your day so that parts of the day are focused solely on one task. I think the most important part is to only focus on one part at a time. Personally, I find dedicating long stretches to one task to be more effective.
3 Ways To Become More Productive
Regardless of whether you end up being a “batcher” or a “multitasker” (I prefer the former), here are some tips on how to become the most productive you can be.
1. Know Your Priorities & Timelines
Whether you prefer to use Trello, Asana, Google Calendar, or any other organizational tool, be sure you use it! Getting organized will help you keep your goals straight.
Personally, I’m obsessed with my Google Calendar, and with setting goals twice a year. Whatever your organizational poison is, be sure it’s nearby at all times. If you know what your priorities are, it’ll be a lot easier to batch together those tasks and get them completed on time.
You have access to my goal-setting sheet in my printables library, right? If not, click the button below to grab yours today!
2. Know Your Why
When I’m slacking on a certain project (ahem, PhD), I find the best way to keep on going is to remember why I started it.
If you don’t have a good enough why, it’s not likely going to be easy to motivate yourself to keep going. Having enough discipline to stick to a task is a lot easier if you can define the purpose.
What’s your why?
3. Know How To Say “No”!
Now, this topic actually deserves a post of its own, so perhaps I’ll tackle it next week. However, I do want to say that knowing how to say no is just as important as knowing when to accept work.
Don’t want to turn down students or clients?
I hear you! I completely understand this.
However, sometimes you have to. In order to get your priorities on track, be efficient, or even simply to “batch focus” for the day, you have to say no to opportunities for work (or play) that get in the way.
Are you a multi-tasker or a batch-worker? What do you to do be most productive? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below 🙂
Have a lovely and productive week!
P.S. Photography lovers, the photo for today’s post (and poster!) is one I took in Cinque Terre, Italy in 2016.
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