Does Multitasking Work? Why You Should Stop Trying To Do Everything and FOCUS

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In a time where everyone is rushing around at supersonic speed to get things done, trying to be more productive and achieve our goals.

We all believe that multitasking is something we must do in order to achieve more and get the most out of our time.

When you ask people how they've been the stock answer seems to be “Yeah I've just been busy…”

What does that even mean? Like being busy is a good thing right?

Wrong.

The word productivity is all around us:

“How to increase your productivity”

“This tool will sky rocket your productivity”

“Productivity hacking with this new technique”

Don't get me wrong, being busy can be a good thing IF you're being productive. The trouble I see is that most people have the perception of being busy because they are multitasking.

The question is…should you really be multitasking?

In this post we will cover:

  • The power of developing positive habits
  • The one problem with creating multiple task lists
  • The real truth about multitasking
  • My time tracking ephinany
  • What it takes to achieve true focus

What It All Looks Like For Me

As you may have seen from this blog, I have a number of projects I am working on, some large, some small.

However, one thing they all have in common is that they take up a portion of my time AND they demand my focus.

Some of the projects I am working on include

  • This Website
  • The Mastery
  • Domain Haul
  • Various Niche Sites
  • Niche Site Case Study
  • Large Authority Site

So that's 6+ main projects and I am probably leaving out several smaller ones where they are in the idea/development stage or I have simply parked them as my brain cannot process it all…!

One way I combat brain overload is to write my tasks down…

Task Lists

The thing with having several projects is that no matter how big or small, each and every one of them has tasks that need to be completed.

So, I create a task list and have one list for each project.

I manage these tasks using my Trello system and this helps me to make some kind of sense of it all.

The main downside to having all of your tasks in one location so they are easy to see is

OVERLOAD.

Quite often I find myself jumping from one task to another, often across multiple projects in such a short amount of time.

This leaves me feeling far less focused on the task at hand, as I am already queuing up the next task in my mind.

To combat this I have been in the lab testing what works that best and here's what I came up with.

Choosing Your ONE Thing

In order for you to eliminate all the noise and find that true focus, you must decide which task or project is the most important.

This is where most (including myself) struggle.

They are all a priority, right?

Wrong.

There is always a way to prioritize, it just takes a little forethought. Here are some options you have:

  • Which is most time pressing? I.e what is the deadline for each task?
  • Are other people reliant on you delivering this task?
  • What value can be associated with completing the task?
  • How long will each task take and what do you have time for right now?

Those 4 simple questions can help you to peg your tasks and projects into some kind of logical order based on time, value and type.

Try this with your own list and let me know how you get on.

The ONE Thing is not an idea I came up with by myself, unfortunately.

This book from Gary Keller is the best book I have read in 2014 and I've read quite a few.

It's quite simple really.

What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

Sounds like a mouthful I know, however in the book Gary does a great job of applying this above statement to all walks of life and business.

He shares examples of the excuses people make to not prioritize and split their focus over multiple things (multitasking!)

As a direct result of reading this book, I estimate that my productivity has at least doubled. I still have a way to go, but my mind is on the right track and I believe you can achieve the same.

Give it a read, its a quick read at just 240 pages long and I completed it in two sittings.

Multitasking vs. Single Focus

To put it simply, multitasking as a productivity tool is a lie.

Not only does multitasking make our work 50% less valuable; it takes 50% longer to finish

Think about it, each day our bodies and minds are granted a finite amount of time, energy and focus.

What we are really doing by multitasking is dividing that limited resource and spreading it so thinly that you will quite often see:

  • Tasks take much longer than they should so
  • The task will not get completed
  • You will make more mistakes
  • You will push back those difficult tasks in favor of easy wins

I am sure you have experienced at least one of those 4 examples above, especially as multitasking is what all great entrepreneurs do…isn't it?

Nope.

The interesting one for me is the last item in that list:

You will push back those difficult tasks in favour of easy wins

Easy wins come in all shapes and sizes, essentially they are quick and simple to complete tasks that take little time, energy and focus.

Subconsciously your body knows its focus and energy resources are finite, so you allow yourself to rack up a few easy wins, check email, check Facebook and send a few Skype PM's.

This is what I call “the busy work”, the stuff that makes it feel like you are getting things done when in reality you're getting nowhere fast.

The kind of stuff that makes people say “Yeah I've been busy…”

Developing Positive Habits (‘The Routine')”

My friend Doug from Niche Site Project recently published a post where he talks about his morning routine.

We've spoken about this on a number of occasions in our Mastermind Group sessions and we are both always looking to improve ourselves and our businesses.

This generally involves trying out new techniques to eek out yet more from our workdays.

We both have full-time jobs and an extra half an hour per day can make the world of difference in the long run.

Doug already covered the steps you can follow if you're looking for more focused time to commit to building your online business. You can check his great post out here.

My Morning Routine

  • Wake up at 5 am
  • Feed Otis my dog
  • Drink a pint of water
  • 5-minute meditation
  • Write 1,000 words of content

I have been following this routine for a couple of weeks now and can say I felt an immediate improvement in my mindset and output/focus.

Here's why:

Waking up at 5 am

This is just an hour earlier than I used to wake, however, it makes me feel like I am literally stealing an extra hour per day to get stuff done.

Over the course of the week that will give me 7 additional hours to work on my business.

Over the course of the year that's over 15 days extra to grow my business.

Of course, that does mean getting up at the same time on a weekend, however, I used to get up at around 8 am on a Saturday & Sunday, so getting up at 7 am actually feels like I have still had a nice lie in.

One more benefit to waking up earlier is the buzz I get from the feeling of getting one over on the competition.

It's like I have already done an hour's work and wrote 1,000 words before they have even gotten out of bed! I love it.

Feeding My Dog

This was already a part of my routine, I just didn't realize it.

You see dogs love routine, so from him being a 10-week old puppy to this very day (he's 2 now) we have done the same thing each and every morning.

Implementing this was easy as this was already a part of what I do every morning, but now I know why I do it!

Drinking a pint of Water

This is also something I have done for a very long time upon waking.

I follow a Paleo lifestyle 80% of the time and one of the key things I picked up on immediately, is that after sleeping your body is actually dehydrated as you have not taken on any fluids throughout the night.

To rehydrate the first thing you should do before eating or drinking anything else is drink a glass of water.

Even before your morning coffee fix, coffee is a diuretic, meaning it actually dehydrates you more.

Don't get me started on the cereal…if you want to find out more about Paleo, check this out.

The 5 Minute Meditation

This is a funny one as I used to think meditation was all hippy BS and just couldn't buy into it.

Then about a year ago my friend, Adam sent me a video that explains it in terms I could relate too.

So after a few months of off and on attempts, I admitted I could see the benefits…but who had the time to waste on meditation?

In fact, I don't even call it meditation, for me it's just slowing down and focusing on your breathing. Sitting for 5 minutes each morning clears my head and sets me up for the day.

One of the benefits I attribute to this personally is a better outlook on the day in general, feeling less stressed about what I have to get done that day and the awareness of how my mind and body function better when I slow it all down and just breath.

Check out this from Zen Habits if you are interested – http://zenhabits.net/meditate/

Writing 1,000 Words of Content

Doing this each morning as part of my routine has been the biggest kick starter to my increased productivity.

If truth be told I am not or was not a big fan of writing. I was used to hiring writers for my niche sites and often struggled to sit down and knock out my own content.

This blog was different as I am talking about topics that really interest me and I have a lot to share, therefore it's never been a problem…but even then I had no set schedule.

Implementing this as the final step in my routine means I end on a high after bashing out 1,000+ words.

Another upside is that my mind is stimulated and by the time I have finished I am fully awake and ready to tackle my ONE Thing.

Time Tracking Ephiphany

As you go through your workday, especially for those of you that work alone, will find that life is full of distractions.

These distractions however as disguised as business applications.

After a particularly “busy week” I decided to install a time tracking application called Rescuetime.

This app tracks each application you use and also which browser windows you have in focus. It then records the amount of time spent on each one.

WARNING: The results may offend you!

Here's mine for last week;

Rescuetime Dashboard

So on top of my 40 hours per weekday job, I also racked up 36 hours on my online endeavors.

What's worse is the applications/websites that took up most of my time:

My Biggest Time Sucks

  • Skype – 4hrs 21mins
  • The Mastery – 3hrs 21mins
  • Gmail – 3hrs 6mins
  • Authority Website – 2hrs 1min
  • This Blog – 1hr 52mins

As you can see, Skype and Gmail hold 1st and 3rd place in this list of things that took up most of my time that week.

Granted we were launching The Mastery, so using Skype for calls and a quick message was essential as was Gmail for longer comms and working with the developers.

It still brings a hard-hitting message and further reaffirms my overall message of “busy work”.

So Far So Good

I've been using Rescuetime for a few weeks and it really has helped to nudge up my focus and be more productive!

One tip if you decide to use this free app – make a bet with a friend – make sure it's a decent value bet and see who can have the most productive week.

Now you CAN assign websites such as Facebook and Reddit into a productive category, so just make sure he/she has not put anything in that category that doesn't belong!

The Time It Takes To Regain Focus

It takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task you were working on after a distraction breaks your focus.

What's more, a study by Sapience Analytics has also shown that we are distracted on average every 11 minutes.

So if you are distracted and it takes you around 23 minutes to regain full focus before you are distracted again, this gives us just 14 minutes of total focus per hour.

Doesn't seem right, does it?

There are however things you can do to limit the number of interruptions you experience.

How To Avoid Distractions?

1. Turn off all distractions – Email, Skype, Facebook, iPhone

2. Turn off pop up/push notifications – Each time you get a popup you lose focus. Sure you may only divert your eyes for a fraction of a second, but that is all it takes to lose that focus.

3. Get a quiet room – No music, no TV – Ever tried having the TV on in the same room you are working? nightmare right? Turn it off or move to another room

4. Using a site blocker – block your frequently visited time-killing sites such as Facebook, your RSS blog reader, and Reddit.

5. Monitor Notes – I love this one. Simple yet effective. leave a sticky note on your monitor that has your ONE thing written down.

6. Distraction free writing in WordPress – this is my go-to each morning when I'm writing my 1,000 words, no formatting, no other windows, just getting it done.

Conclusion

I hope I have given you reason for thought in the about post and would like to leave you with one thought;

Instead of just being busy, take the time to monitor your work habits and get a true reflection of exactly how you're spending your time.

You will probably find at least a few things that you can drop, tweak or improve that will grab back those precious hours we need each day.

Since when did “being busy” become a good thing?

I don't know about you but I do this so I can be less busy, have more free time to do the things I truly want to do in life.