Multitasking has its fair share of merits and demerits. Some people swear by it, some people tell you to avoid it at all costs. What I believe in is that everything works differently for different people. You need to find out what works the best for you and then go about doing your thing.
If you believe multitasking can help you get more done, by all means, do it. With the development of good habits and taking on a strategic approach, you can approach all that you want to. Just keep these things in mind to make your multitasking more effective. Multitasking is the most effective when it doesn’t hurt your productivity overall.
1. Limit the projects you take on
It can seem like an exciting prospect to work on a lot of projects at the same time, but productivity wise it is never a good idea. Because projects are just not projects, they have many tasks and subtasks, various deadlines, research work, and testing. So, when you actually start working, it can actually be detrimental to get results because when you focus on a lot of things, you are not exactly working on any one thing properly.
2. Prioritize your tasks
You might feel like all the things you are doing are important, but when you really consider all the things on your list, you will realize they are not. Even if you already multitask and get a lot done, you have to understand that some things are better done with full focus rather than juggling them with other tasks.
The first thing you need to do is to write down all the tasks that you need to get done. Then take a look at each question and ask yourself questions that will help you understand which task should be done right away.
- Deadline – If the task has a deadline that is closer than the other tasks you have, then it needs immediate attention.
- Who are you working for? Is the task for a client or for yourself. If it is for a client, then it holds priority because you get paid.
- Hinderance – If not completing the task right away won’t halt other tasks then you can put it off in preference of other tasks.
- Time – How much time does the time require? Will it be better to do it with total focus or will it be okay to do in chunks with other tasks?
These are some questions that will help you determine what tasks you should do first, and what tasks you can pair with each other without harming your productivity. Mark your high priority tasks in your to-do lists to get the most out of them.
3. Use different calendars
Making a calendar is as important as making a to-do list. It can help make to-do lists and vice versa. There are deadlines and events and product releases, and whatever you have marked on your calendar, so you make your daily task lists based on that.
When you are multitasking, you need to make another calendar because simply writing down a list won’t help you remember what task you are supposed to do when. Make this calendar to represent the tasks you do. Group similar tasks, use blocks of times to do similar tasks daily. Find out what task you can do the best at what time of the day and always assign those kinds of tasks to that specific block of time on your calendar.
4. Use the parts of your brain correctly
You know how you can talk on the phone while eating, and still get both done at the same time without much problem. But you won’t be able to talk on the phone as well as hold a conversation with people you are eating with. This is because eating needs motor function and conversing on the phone needs the language center but talking on the phone and conversing with people around you will need the same language center part of your brain.
One thing that you need to remember is that pairing tasks to be done together is also about the science of how our brain works. Different parts of our brains are used for different things. You need to understand that you cannot do two tasks at a time that require the same part of your brain.
5. Get rid of distractions
It is anyway difficult to focus on your tasks when there are distractions around. It becomes even more difficult when you want to focus on more than one thing. I cannot stress enough about focusing just on the task at hand.
Phones are the biggest distraction, either turn the data off so that you don’t get notifications or keep your phone out of your reach or sight so that you get up only for important phone calls. If you work in an office, then chatty colleagues and the various other sounds can be huge distractions too. You can start putting on noise-canceling headphones so that no one disturbs you. You don’t need to listen to anything, just use it as the universal symbol of “Don’t talk to me” that it is. You can also play ambient sounds like I do to focus better. Brain.fm and Noizio are good options.
6. Use productivity techniques and tools
I have talked about using the Pomodoro Technique and Big Rocks so many times that I think I will have to make a post dedicated to it soon. But, there are so many techniques you can use to work in bursts and motivate yourself to actually get work done.
Most techniques place importance on breaks as well. When you are working non-stop, you and your work are both going to suffer. It helps no one. Use productivity techniques to keep you on your toes and remind you to take breaks as well.
7. Shift tactics to work more
Talking about taking breaks, you don’t only need to take breaks from working, you also need to take a break from multitasking. If you have been successfully multitasking for the better part of the day, there is a high chance that your mind will get tired. If you still work through that, then that is when you face mental burnout.
You need to switch to focusing on doing single tasks if you start feeling overwhelmed. This will give your brain some space to breathe and get ready for another round of multitasking fun.
Not everyone can naturally multitask, and it doesn’t work for everyone either. Strategizing and planning can help you learn the rope of multitasking and then it will become easier for you to implement it in your daily routine.
5 Podcasts to Help Boost Productivity in Your Life
Listening to podcasts has become a new obsession. Why wouldn’t it? When really influential people talk about the teachings in their lives and give tips about tackling different problems and doing the best you can, can you really deny an opportunity to listen to them speak?
People learn a lot through podcasts. You can find one of any subject you are interested in. You can plug in while you run your chores and learn valuable lessons without having to spend extra time to learn them. There are many tasks and ideas that you keep in your head. It takes up a lot of your energy, trying to figure out how to get everything done in the most productive way possible. Our mind is cluttered with all the things that need to be done and doesn’t leave much space to think about what you need to do right now.
Here are five podcasts and a bonus podcast to help you learn the tricks to productivity and getting the most done in your personal and professional lives.
1. Getting Things Done
Getting things done is a podcast by David Allen, author of the popular productivity book, “Getting Things Done.” GTD podcasts are based around work-life management system and supercharging your personal productivity.
David discusses various aspects of productivity with people from all walks of life. From beginners to people who have already made it, everyone gives their personal advice and lessons. The podcast has a mix of personal and professional stories to help you with your work-life productivity. One of the main focuses is on stress-free productivity. There are already 49 episodes out, so if you start listening to it now, you will have a lot of content to binge.
2. The 5 AM Miracle
The 5 AM Miracle is a podcast based around starting your day with productivity. It aims at dominating your day before breakfast. The idea behind the podcast is to teach you to develop powerful lifelong habits and tackle your biggest goals with extraordinary energy by helping you to get out of bed with enthusiasm.
This podcast is run by Jeff Sanders, productivity coach and author of a book by the same name, “The 5 AM Miracle.” There are 288 episodes out currently. Each episode either features a guest of Jeff himself talking about various aspects of being productive. The topics of each episode range from early mornings, healthy habits, personality development to ways to rock productivity.
3. Beyond the To-Do List
“Beyond the To-Do List” is a podcast based around productivity in general. The podcast focuses on doing more than we have on our to-do lists; to look beyond it. The podcasts episodes tackle all aspects of productivity: getting the right work done, getting good work done, and living a meaningful life.
This podcast is run by Erik Fisher. He is usually in conversation with guests who actually implement productivity strategies in their personal and professional lives. It is not only about the successes, but also failures of certain methods. You get to learn from real-life applications of productivity strategies and their successes and failures from real people who have actually used them. There are 271 episodes out of “Beyond the To-Do List.”
4. The Tim Ferriss Show
“The Tim Ferriss Show” is not necessarily based on productivity solely. But it covers a wide breadth of topics like financial freedom, peak performance, self-growth and more. It is often ranked the #1 podcast on Apple Podcasts. The focus is also on business productivity, and each episode is an interview with a person who knows what they are talking about.
The podcast, as the title of the podcast suggests, is run by Tim Ferris. Time Ferris is the author of many popular books such as “The 4-Hour Work Week,” “Tools of Titans,” “Tribe of Mentors,” and also “The 4-Hour Body,” and “The 4-Hour Chef.” Currently, 370 episodes are out, most of them featuring influential people across many fields.
5. Defeat the Drama at Work
“Defeat the drama at work” is based around team productivity. This podcast uses proven strategies that help leaders create a clear definition. It teaches you how to defeat employee drama, which we all know can hinder productivity at the workplace big time. You also learn ways to generate engaged teams that work well and produce more.
This podcast is run by Kristen E. Ross, author of the leadership books “Defeat the Drama!” and “From People Problems to Productivity.” The podcast is said to help you transform from being resigned, resentful, and overwhelmed to focused, engaged, and empowered. The podcast currently has 142 episodes out.
This is not a productivity podcast per se. The tagline of this podcast is “How to maneuver your twenties.” It talks about how to deal with the common hardships of no longer being a Teenager, and it goes beyond productivity, it’s a mix of life and productivity and everything coming of age.
It is hosted by Megan Tan. There are currently 49 episodes out. The podcast is autobiographical and includes interviews with people in Megan Tan’s life including family members, coworkers, and friends. The podcast explores the subject of finding meaningful and fulfilling work with the pressures of money, status, and self-worth.
How to Effectively Get Your Work Tasks Done
When working with people, getting actual work done can be a task. Not everyone works on the same wavelength. Coordinating the work if you are a more efficient person than your peers, colleagues, employees can be frustrating. Phone calls at work, replying to emails, meetings are some of the things, though required waste a lot of time.
It is important to find workarounds and methods that will help you keep your sanity. Trust me, sometimes all you need, to relax in your routine, is to make a simple change. Some of the things that I am going to talk about has completely changed my life in terms of saving time and increasing efficiency.
So, the most insignificant tasks or the tasks that no one looks forward to, that pressurize us daily and make endless demands on our time are briefings, meetings, phone calls, emails. Meetings are believed to be the biggest collective waste of time by many people.
Let me show you some quotes about meetings from people who know what they are talking about.
“A meeting is an event where minutes are taken and hours wasted.”
– James T. Kirk, Captain of the USS Enterprise
“The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.”
– Thomas Sowell, American Writer and Economist
“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be “meetings.””
– Dave Barry, American Writer and Humorist
“Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.”
– John Kenneth Galbraith, Canadian Writer and Economist
Although our focus isn’t just meetings today, I just wanted to share my bit on the discussion with you. Here are some ways you can save time doing the mundane but necessary parts of your job/work.
Start out by creating lists. Make a list of all the meetings, briefings, discussions, you might have to be a part of. May it be for the day or the mandatory weekly, monthly ones. Lists help you get a clear perspective of your work. Note down what all will be needed for every meeting. If there is a scheduled phone call you need to make with a client, note down the particulars for it as well.
When making your list, eliminate anything that will hinder with your productivity. If there are too many meetings in a day, try to put them down for later in the week. More than one meeting in a day mean you won’t be able to get a lot of work done. You also need to know what times work the best for the tasks you have to do.
For example, some people find replying to emails in the morning better, while some people do it in the middle of the day. Find out what parts of the day are high-energy times for you. This will help you plan better, and also give you a designated time to complete certain tasks.
Let’s talk about the three main concerns here-
- Even if you are not going to reply to your emails now, sorting them can be a great idea. Take a look at your inbox every morning and then quickly categorize each email. Create labels like now, future, urgent, etc. Trash the not useful emails immediately. Whenever you go to reply to your emails, you will have your work cut out for you.
- When your employees send you emails, tell them to tell you the subject matter in a concise form. A quick look at the email should suffice to tell what the email is about. Do the same when you send emails to your employees.
- Use bullet points to communicate in emails with your employees, instead of paragraphs. This ensures only important information being passed, and the employees will start to follow the same soon.
- Before making a phone call or returning a call, write down the objective of the call on a post-it or a piece of paper and keep it in front of you. Use bullet points for ease of use, and you can also put in a check next to each point as you cover it.
- Writing down the objectives helps you cut the discussion time by not having to think about what next was to be discussed. It gives you a clear purpose, and ensures effective communication.
- Prepare a written agenda for every meeting. Like the phone calls, having a clear list to follow stops you from straying from the subject.
- If the meeting is based on going over some reports, plan, or written documents. Have the document sent to the people, who would be attending the meeting, prior to the said meeting. This gives everyone time to go over the material and form questions and opinions. This saves a lot of time in the meeting. All you have to do is discuss the points everyone came up with, and wrap up the meeting.
- Only the people really needed in the meeting should be in the meeting. Try cutting down the number to only the crucial people to that meeting.
Apart from these things, keeping your environment decluttered is really important to make it easier to find things as well as have a space you feel like working in. Make it clear to your colleagues that you are not up for a chat while working. Wear earplugs or headphones when working to drown the noise out. Honestly, all changes needed are really simple and small to make your current situation more workable.
All these things might seem small, and might seem like not a lot of time is saved, but trust me, it adds up. Also, this isn’t only about saving time, it is also about increasing productivity. These things can easily take a toll on one’s mental health. It can also sap your energy for the rest of the day. Which is why it is always advised to not spend much time on secondary tasks.
Automate or plan on making these tasks as quick as you can. You will see the difference soon enough!
5 Smart Actionable Tips to Overcome Laziness
Do you read laziness memes and find them relevant? Do you feel like all the funny comics about procrastination are written for you? Do you always postpone work?
“Lazy people are always eager to be doing something.”
If your answer is yes to any of these or all of these (let’s be real here!) questions, then you know that you should get over this habit of yours. Tell me how many times have you thought about doing something about it. Tell me how many times have you postponed your “how-to-not-postpone-work” strategy.
“A lazy person, whatever the talents with which he starts out, has condemned himself to second-rate thoughts, and to second-rate friends.”
It is surely more than the times you could count. I have been in the same place, and I know how much it can add to the stress when the work keeps piling on. I tried tons of things to learn how to be productive and not busy so that I still had time to myself but also got work done. A lot of the strategies is what I still use.
Trust me; once you stick with the changes you make, it gets easier. Using productivity tools, strategic breaks, and even a reward system can help you stop sitting on your ass and actually make something happen.
Here are some tried, tested, and sworn by techniques to overcome laziness.
1. Start Small
Starting is the most difficult step. Once you start, your work will flow with the momentum, but how do you start?
In the beginning, start by envisioning a really insignificant amount of work that doesn’t take much time. Suppose you have to write a 10-page report. A 10-page report might make you feel like not doing it, but what if it was a one-page report? Would you keep dropping it as much as the 10-page report? Probably not.
Aim to do only a page, and then you can continue watching Netflix or playing games. When you convince your mind that you have to write just one page, it is easier to get on with it. Once you start, the flow of the work gets you to work more than the intended one page.
Starting small is a great way to get that initial push to begin the work you have been putting off. It’s only about opening the laptop in the beginning. Do the most difficult task that triggers laziness and then you have not much to worry about.
2. Start with the most important task each day
Talking about the most difficult things or most important things – I know how much the thought of a difficult task hanging over your head can make you feel stressed out. The important work gets put off a lot because we want it to be perfect or do a good job at it.
“Towards evening the lazy person begins to get busy.”
But putting the work off often keeps the work poking our minds. The shadow of that task overpowers all the other work you need to do. For this to not happen, you should begin each day by working on tasks such as the ones we are talking about.
When you begin your day, the chances of you wanting to not do anything are lesser compared to the remaining day. Use the energy and positivity of the morning to tackle the most difficult work you have. When you tackle that, the mindset of getting things done is carried throughout the day. That mindset can help you not put off other works and also help you stop being lazy.
3. Break down big tasks into smaller tasks
When you look at a task as a whole, the thought of it can demotivate you. This is similar to the starting small point, but here we focus on breaking down the task into small manageable tasks.
Let’s take the same example of having to write a ten-page report. Now, report writing needs research, note-taking, planning, writing, citations, editing, proofreading, plagiarism checking, etc. These different aspects, when looked at as one thing, make the task of report writing, overwhelming.
“The lazier a man is, the more he plans to do tomorrow.”
Start out by looking at them as separate tasks. Research is a task in its own. Work on that and don’t worry about the rest. When you are done with research, you can get on with the other step. When you actually look at smaller tasks as steps that will lead to the completion of your work, it becomes easier to take the first step.
4. Include breaks/lazy time into your work schedule
I have talked about this is many articles. If you are a regular reader, you know how much I endorse techniques that require you to take regular breaks in between work, especially the Pomodoro technique.
Being productive continuously is sort of a myth. Your brain needs a moment to breathe and so do you. By using a technique that makes sure that you get enough work done before you get a break, you are far more productive. Taking constant breaks makes the work not feel overwhelming which according to me is one of the leading reasons for people to be lazy.
Breaking down the hours make it seem less daunting. In the Pomodoro technique, you work for 25 minutes and then take a break of 5 minutes. When you do this four times, you get a bigger break of 15-30 minutes. If you can’t hold yourself accountable or don’t trust yourself to get back to work after your breaks, use timers or apps that help you follow it. There are a lot of apps based around the idea of work/break productivity. I use Be Focused on my Mac. It integrates a task manager along with a timer that you can customize.
5. Set Rewards
When we were little, our mothers bribed us to do our homework by allowing us to go outside only if we finished our homework. It was sort of a restriction too but worked mostly like a bribe. Use that same ideology. No matter how old we are, we love rewards.
Rewards are a sure way of getting work done. It is a sweet driving force. When you can see something for yourself in the end, you feel more motivated to complete the work. Say you want to watch a new episode of your favorite show, then use that as motivation.
Say to yourself that, “I can watch the episode after I finish writing two pages of this report.” Trust me; it works like a charm. This motivation is the most lucrative one to oneself. The thing you do in your lazy time is something you can use as a reward instead.
“Laziness erodes a person of his enthusiasm and energy. As a result, the person loses all opportunities and finally becomes dejected and frustrated. The worst thing is that he stops believing in himself.”
There are a lot of other things you can do, like reciting affirmations, learning from the stories of successful people, thinking about the consequences of not doing your job, etc. but those won’t help you take actual steps. Taking actual steps is what our focus is here.
You can use the other techniques you read about to motivate yourself but don’t forget to actually get up and put those learnings into practice.
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