Have you ever had the feeling of being super busy yet at the same time get nothing done? This is a devastatingly frustrating and anxiety provoking experience that I used to wrestle with all too often. With a spinning head, I would push into project after project until I had 4 or 5 different things going on at the same time, each one seeing stagnant or lurching results.
I used to consider my ability to multitask a significant strength of mine. Switching from task to task with ease was a skill I was very proud of. It wasn’t until I started doing things differently that I fully realized how much time I was wasting taking on multiple projects at the same time. I know this isn’t a ground breaking concept; however, once I started a task and then finished it until completion prior to starting another one, I found my productivity to nearly double.
When I took a closer look as to why I would take on multiple projects at the same time, I came up with three eye opening findings:
1) I found that the most common time I would start a new project would be when I hit some resistance on my current project. Starting a new project would serve as a break or avoidance tactic from the current tough spot.
2) I lacked a structured, “To Do” list which left me susceptible to the to next bright and shiny idea that came into my head. A great conversation with a friend, new book, or interesting podcast would send me into another direction that was more exciting than what I had originally planned to do for the day.
3) I get bored easy. At my core, I am in my element when tasked with generating and organizing ideas. I would much rather spend my time on a white board leading a team brainstorming session than take the main points generated and turn them into action items. If I found myself in the action seat for too long, I would simply start a new project out of boredom.
After I became aware of the reasons why I engaged in multitasking, I began to look at this ability as a weakness that needed to be worked on instead a strength to be celebrated. Despite the fact that self-reflection is often a bitter pill, it is a crucial step towards personal growth and optimization. In this situation, the knowledge of how I used multitasking as an avoidance mechanism allowed me to put in place some simple systems that have paid off with large productive returns:
1. Generate monthly, weekly and daily “To Do” lists that align with current goals
The monthly list allows me to keep my priorities in order while the weekly and daily lists serve as reinforcement along the way so I do not become frustrated
2. Let the people closest to you know that you are working on streamlining your productivity and to call you out on your BS avoidance behavior
Accountability is a major driver for behavior change and this type is often free of charge and readily available
3. Have a plan for when things get tough or boring
Instead of switching over to another task, take a brain break. Go for a walk, listen to some music, read a book, or talk out the issue with a friend or co-worker. After this break come back ready and recharged to hammer way.
4. DO THE WORK!
All great things begin with ideas; however, it is the WORK that turns them into reality. When things get monotonous, buckle down and GRIND!
Like all targets of behavior change, this one will not be a quick or easy fix. Focus on one task at a time and chunk away. Write down and celebrate your progress. Our brains are hard wired to celebrate success so the bigger an item is on your TO DO list, the better it will feel when you cross it off.
Plan for success and enjoy your new found focus!
Love you all,