BY TARYN JEREZ
How many hats do you wear in your business, currently?
If you are anything like me, you may have quite the collection. Some days, I wear my marketing hat, CEO hat, coaching hat, mail clerk hat – and that’s just naming a few!
Imagine coming to a meeting, and you see me wearing all of my “hats” at the same time with each taking the form of a baseball cap or fedora stacked one on top of the other atop my head. You would think I looked a little ridiculous, wouldn’t you?
And, friend, I wouldn’t blame you. Especially when they all came crashing down around us.
This is what multitasking is like in our business and our life.
We try to be and do everything at once because, quite frankly, what other option do we have? What we fail to realize is that even when the plate is full, the choice of how we work is in our power. We have been fed the popular lie that multitasking is this incredible skill when really, it does more harm than good by robbing us of time and energy.
Stanford University performed a study in 2009 that showed “heavy multitaskers were less mentally organized, struggled at switching from one task to another, and had a hard time differentiating relevant from irrelevant details.” As good as we can be at managing the millions of things life demands us to, our brain can only fully focus on one thing at a time. We actually lose productivity when we keep jumping from one task to another without ever completing anything.
So, how do we stop the multitasking mentality? Here are five tips I want to share that have helped increase my productivity in the last six months.
#1 Write down your priorities
Wasn’t it Cinderella who sang the words, “A dream is a list your heart makes?” (OK, maybe those aren’t exactly the right lyrics!) Don’t let your tasks get out of hand by not having a plan to work towards your goals. Take time as you approach each new week and every day to write down what projects need your attention and the tasks it will take to get you there. Seeing it in front of you helps you create a plan of action and know what to prioritize.
#2 Remove distraction to help stay focused
Unless you are working from your smartphone, it’s a good idea to keep it out of sight when possible. As helpful as these devices are, they can also be a huge distraction and major time suck! Also, be mindful of your environment and make sure it’s somewhere you can get things done without being pulled into other things. If your teenagers are playing video games in the living room, maybe go upstairs to work. Chatty Cathy team member in your office? Book a meeting room to crank out the rest of that project in peace.
#3 Don’t let small tasks interrupt large ones
If you have large tasks that are anchored by a deadline, resist the urge to jump into the simple things on your list. It may feel good to add that checkmark in the box, but it will delay you from getting the harder, more time-consuming things completed. What may seem like a quick five minutes here or there, after several interruptions, can literally swallow hours of your time and productivity. Reward yourself by holding onto the quick, fun stuff for later!
#4 Embrace saying “No” to things that ask for you “now”
When someone needs you “real quick” remember that the moments with them are not all they are asking for. You lose productivity by exiting your current concentration and workflow as well as the time it will take to get back into it afterward. Embrace saying “no” and “not right now.” This includes email! Turn off notifications on your phone and stop repeatedly checking your inbox. There are always going to be new emails coming in, and I promise, they can wait. Instead, carve out time in your day ahead of time for email and check it during those times to stay on track.
# 5 Complete something before moving onto the next task
We live in a world where 90% of job applications list “multitasking” as a necessary skill. Imagine if we concentrated on the ability to focus and complete projects productively instead? It may sound like the same thing, but it’s not. Let’s stop stopping what you’re working on and moving onto other tasks. That email you have open? Finish it before you move to the next one. The QuickBooks tab waiting for you to upload receipts? Scan them in and assign them to your transactions before starting to create that social media post.
Remember – multitasking can do more harm than good!