Are you a self-proclaimed multitasker, jumping from one project to the next or juggling several different assignments simultaneously? You may feel as if you are getting more done in a shorter period of time, but if you often find yourself switching from task to task without seeing anything through to completion, you may actually be hindering and not helping your personal effectiveness.
The productivity blog The 99 Percent polled its Twitter followers about how they would like to improve their work habits, and eliminating multitasking was an almost universal sentiment.
It can be a fine line between multitasking and distraction (or just plain procrastination). To make the most of your time, cut back on trying to do everything at once and focus all of your attention on a single task at a time.
1. Put yourself on the clock.
Work within self-imposed time limits so you are aware of how long each project is taking you. Resist the temptation to do five minutes of Project A, five minutes of Project B and so on. Select one task to focus on and give yourself a set amount of time to devote to it before moving on to the next one. If you need more structure to this system, try the Pomodoro Technique, recommended by The 99 Percent:
The Pomodoro Technique is like interval training for your attention span. Using the technique, you focus on One Single Task for 25 minutes. Then, you get a 5-minute break to stretch, indulge in Twitter, check your email, or whatever else.
This approach keeps you focused without getting too restless so you can maximize your personal effectiveness.
2. Start with your most important priority.
Instead of beginning your day with the easy jobs, such as checking and responding to emails, returning phone calls, making social media updates and filing papers, prioritize your schedule in order of most important to least important. Start by working on and completing the most pressing item on your to-do list, without getting distracted by other tasks, and you will set the tone for the rest of the day. Plus, you can breathe a sigh of relief that you have already accomplished the most important part of your day.
3. Minimize your multitasking temptations.
Think about what usually distracts you from a task you are working on. Is it an Internet browser full of different tabs you feel compelled to click through? Is it a social networking site that you refresh every few minutes? Is it a colleague at the desk next to yours who calls impromptu brainstorming sessions? Zero in on the factors that can derail your productivity throughout the day and find ways to minimize them. Explore ways to make time and space for solo, uninterrupted work.
4. Get back on track.
No one is perfect, so if you do catch yourself juggling too many tasks at a time, take a short break and reevaluate your work. Ask yourself: what is the most important project that I should be focusing on first? Work on that assignment, and put the other tasks aside until later. If your thoughts wander and you start giving into distractions, gently remind yourself what your priority is and get back on track.
Are you a multitasker? How do you think it has an impact on your productivity?
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