Why Multitasking Doesn't Work (and what you should be doing....)

Most people's to do lists are either non-existent, or 200 items long.  Both of these generally result in the essential items being missed, and the easy stuff being done instead. Let me show you how you should really be creating your to do list which focuses on big ticket items and actually getting results.




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Ladies and Gentlemen, Learn Share Grow live here with Hayden Wilson. Today I’m sharing some strategies with you, again around Time Management, but we’re going to talk about why multitasking doesn’t actually work and what does work.


Studies have shown, and there may be some who disagree on this call, but what multitasking is actually doing is it’s your brain switching from one activity to another, back and forth and you lose focus during that time – it’s a very energy intensive activity. What we really need to do is to have our brain lined up, start and finish one task at a time, and just move forward down our priorities. As you can see up here, we see two people. The first on the left is someone trying to multitask and as you can see, the building blocks just aren’t adding up. On the right hand side we have someone who has a single focussed mind and he is able to build his wall quite succinctly. That’s what I want you to start doing. Multitasking is a myth and there have been countless studies to prove this and this is just another example and that’s why I’m here to tell you today and to explain some strategies around single task focus is a lot more efficient.


When you’re focussing singly on one particular activity it’s a lot easier to have a clear goal, we’ve got our priority list that we’ve already set out during the week and we know exactly what we should do first and what we should do second. When you’ve got that single focus you can maintain on the entire task for the duration from start to finish. This is how we get productivity completed and work done.


So I’m going to share a couple of strategies with you that have worked for me. The first is to keep a notebook handy so if you’re anything like me and you might be half way through a task and another task comes in, or someone comes up to you and their agenda items, depending on external factors they may believe it’s more important, but you know within you that your priorities need to be set out a certain way, but it can often skew and you end up doing what they think is important and at the end of the day you’ve helped everyone else complete their tasks but nothing that you actually need to get done is getting done. So I always keep a notebook handy or a list of my items and then if something else pops up all I need to do is write it in at the bottom. I write or type in what that person needs and instead of dropping everything else and starting that task I just move it to the bottom of my line, finish what I’m doing and then analyse it and decide is this something that I need to do right now, or where should it go in my list of priorities. It’s also really good in the work zone / mode and there’s stuff to do and you discover that a nice idea comes into your head. We’ve all been there, we’ve been distracted, we’ve had priorities, we’re switching tasks back and forth and then something pops up and you minimise something, then you get a text message and you look at it 4, 5 or 6 hours later, oh that’s right, I was doing that. So we need to try and minimise that. So whenever I have an idea I have my idea book or journal handy and just write down the idea because I know I can come back to it later. It takes that pressure off my brain and that could work for you as well.


The second thing that you can do is to identify your productive time.   Although the traditional work / office times are 9am to 5pm, it’s not how we’re designed as humans to work. We have three different levels of productivity. There’s really focused time, then we have everyday sort of time and then we have unfocused time. We need to discover when we need the most brain power for each of these activities. So with the first one, when it’s super focused time, these are the critical tasks that need to get done and they need your maximum brain power to complete. For me, it’s early in the morning, between 6am and 10am that I do the large majority of my work because that’s when my mind is focused and it’s on. Then I usually have something to eat and later on my other block of super focused time is generally between 2pm and 5pm so I do my other focused work there. Then I plan around in different areas around those times. When am I going to check emails – emails are really overly intensive, you just scroll through, it doesn’t take up a lot of brain power so you might choose to do that just after lunch or first thing when you get into the office in the morning and you’ll find that by doing this, you’re not taking up too much brain power, you’re just scanning through them. If there’s something important you need to file that and put it into your priorities list and decide yes, this will take a lot of focus so you’ll put it into your focussed time rather than try and bang it out or try to put your energy into it when you aren’t in that zone. So I want you to start to realise the three different zones that we’re in and start to prioritise your work within that. So by the end of the day at 7.30 or 8.30 at night my brain is generally pretty toast so that’s the time I use to walk my dog or perhaps do some exercise that I haven’t done earlier in the day. That’s how you achieve real productivity and focus on the real tasks.


Now I’ve got a couple of strategies that have worked really well for me. One I mentioned yesterday is to use a timer, they call it the Pomodoro Technique which was invented in the 80’s. You simply have a timer and set it to 25 minutes. Studies have shown that by using a timer it puts our brain under pressure and by using that 25 minute block we can stay really focused, have a 5 minute break, go for a quick walk around the block, grab a drink of water, and then come back and do another 25 minute block. By working in these 25 minute blocks with a 5 minute block in between we can become really productive people.


The second strategy I want to talk to you about is what’s called the Power Hour. This is pretty much turning off all the distractions and setting yourself a task that you need to get done for one hour. It really helps break it down because you know there’s a start and end to it, and if you’re focused for that entire time just by setting it within your brain, you will actually get a lot done because you’ve told yourself you’re going to work for that hour and we might integrate a reward with it – if I do this then I will get this reward. Another trick that I’ve found to integrate within that is to play a song or an album that you’re very familiar with and goes for about 60 minutes, or a DJ set or whatever works for you. By doing this you’re automatically telling your brain ‘I only just have to get through this part of my day or my productivity as soon as this ends it signals that I’ve done something very important’. I always chuck on a 60 minute playlist, something I’m very familiar with so my brain’s not distracted – I know it goes for 60 minutes from start to end, so it’s something very visible, very tangible.


These are just a few techniques that I use. The Power Hour, the Pomodoro Technique, make sure you identify when you are most productive. If you’re not a morning person I believe I can change you and make you into a morning person. But if you’re not a morning person right now, stop trying to force it and making yourself a morning person or trying to be productive in the morning when you know that’s not your ideal time. If you’re most creative at 8 o’clock or 9 o’clock at night then that’s when you should do the majority of your work – your chunk in work at that time and I’ll talk a little bit more about that in future videos, how to get yourself into that zone. But for now, all you need to do is identify when you are most productive. The last thing is make sure you have that notebook handy for any ideas that pop into your head or other people’s priorities so you list them there and analyse how important they are.


Thanks for watching, I’m trying to keep this video quite short, up to 8 minutes. Any questions make sure you chuck them there and I’ll answer them after this video’s finished or if you want to see more of these videos jump over to haydenwilson.com.au . Thank you for watching. Enjoy your day. Ciao.