With more options, comes more stress.
In our lives, we rarely ever interact with single functionality technology anymore. Each piece of technology we use comes with so many options of what we could do with it. When we open our laptops to write a report, it’s not like using a typewriter. We’re not limited by our laptops to just write. Instead, we can also check our email, pull together that presentation, and make plans for dinner… all while “writing that report”.
“The more options there are, the easier it is to regret anything at all that is disappointing.”
– Barry Schwartz
With so many options, we often turn to multi-tasking. And it’s not just limited to what we can do on a single device. Instead, we’re often working on our laptops while checking our phones and getting notifications from our smartwatch. It’s no wonder we’re trying to cram all our tasks in at once. But is that really an ideal way to go about completing work?
And, the better question, is there a better alternative?
Get More Done Without Multi-tasking
Could it be true? Despite the millions of people who seem to thrive on the hamster wheel of multi-tasking, could you really accomplish more goals without doing so? The thing is, people aren’t getting work done because of multi-tasking. They’re getting work done despite it.
Multi-tasking is, by definition, doing multiple tasks simultaneously. But your brain can’t be in two different places at once, so what you’re really doing is switching between multiple activities quickly. Neuroscientists call this activity switching, which means quickly moving between several tasks.
By doing so, you’re unknowingly jeopardizing the quality of your work.Switching can lower productivity by up to a whopping 40 percent. Worse yet, it can shrink your brain. As you overload your brain by switching through tasks, you are essentially shrinking the grey matter in your brain.
So, What Can You Do Instead?
As tempting as multi-tasking is, it’s important to remove all distractions before working. Distractions don’t necessarily mean the video game or Facebook, or even your phone. It’s anything that isn’t directly essential to the work you’re doing. So if your goal is to finish writing a report, you don’t need to have your spreadsheets open. They may still be work-related, but if they’re not related to the work you’re doing right now so they’re a distraction.
Work in Time Blocks
Once you’ve got all the distractions taken care of, it’s time to set a schedule. That means setting aside a specific block of time dedicated to a certain project or task. At BestSelf Co., we call this time blocking.
Working in time blocks is a productive approach to ensuring you knock out your daily goals because it keeps you focused when you need it most. To begin time blocking, you’ll first need to write down your most important daily tasks. Then think about the length of the time block you can commit to realistically. Some choose to have multiple hours of deep work dedicated to one project, whereas others prefer 30-minute chunks. There isn’t a right or wrong answer, it’s completely dependent on your own work habits.
During your allotted time, make sure you’re in a distraction-free zone where you can completely focus on your work. And once you sit down to work on your project, that’s the only thing you can work on. You can’t switch tasks, no matter how urgent it may seem. You can’t check your phone and you definitely can’t open Facebook.
All focus must be on finishing as much of your task as you can. But the best part is, once your time is up, you’re free to take a break. You can put that task or project out of your mind because you’ve put in the hours for today.
Time-blocking doesn’t just work well for big projects either. We use it for every single moment in our work day. When we get down to work, we know the one task we’re supposed to be focused on at that moment and that’s the only thing we work on. It does wonders for our productivity.
Benefits of Time Blocking
Blocking time off in your calendar works because it prevents you from multi-tasking by giving you a single task to focus on. Time blocking makes sure that you spend time on what is most important each day. It also provides a clear record of what you have spent time on in the past so you know how you might need to reallocate your time.
Aside from being aware of the areas to focus on, time blocking also frees up more mental space. You won’t be worried that you didn’t finish your most important task of the day because you were scrolling through Facebook. When you time block, you know that, if you stick to your schedule, you’ll get everything done by the end of the day. You don’t need to think about what other projects you should be working on. You won’t end the day wondering where all your time went. You’ll know each day that you’ve spent your time well.
Sitting down and making a list of priority projects and making a time block for each one can significantly reduce your stress. You’ll be able to get more done with less worry. While putting together your time blocks, it’s important to keep in mind the length of the task. Some tasks may only need 30 minutes while others may need multiple time blocks over several weeks to complete. The below photo will give you a good idea on how you should format your new time blocking routine so you can easily become the best version of yourself.