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Because it’s not just the physical switching (like putting our phones down) but also the mental energy it takes to switch between the two tasks. 2
(And… insert the face again here).
More research found (after following a bunch of tech and finance companies for 3 and a half days) that they switched activities every 3 minutes and 5 sections (on average). 3
If I had a dollar for every time I could tell you how many times I made the above face reading this I’d have enough for a brand new phone.
Which apparently loses me 25 minutes every time I look at Instagram! (Claps to me for being the ultimate multitasker and possibly time waster!).
But it’s not just about productivity. Research has also shown we’re more more stress and bad moods. 4
Focus on one thing at a time
I’m not sure if you heard this term a lot as a child but I sure did.
Especially when I was trying to run out somewhere, put my shoes on and tell my mum something all at the same time.
And now this old advice has returned and shown its worth!
“It’s marvelous the change that comes when a man gets together all his forces and centers them upon the doing of one thing at a time.” – George Matthew Adams
So we need to spend less time checking emails, reading other blog posts and googling in between tasks.
But this isn’t the simple trick!
Because you know this and I know this, and yet we still pick up our phones and convince ourselves that we can do both.
Welcome Time Blocking!
I first heard this term in a seminar from the late Chet Holmes.
He was all about setting a time to do things and just doing them – no distractions.
And truth be told, when I’ve used it, it’s worked.
Set Time Blocks
First things first – set yourself time blocks.
Maybe it’ll be 15 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour.
List your most important tasks
Make a list of all the things you know needs to get done – i.e. writing/content marketing. This is usually the biggest task we have on our hands as writers.
Keeping in my mind to list the important tasks as the ones that might need be urgent but are most important to your call.
I can hear you from here though! What about e-mails and all the nitty gritty things we need to get done.
Time block for them too!
Chet was so specific he would have times he would check and reply to e-mails. Tim Ferris also talks about this in the 4 hour work week. He had specific reply and would let people know he only checked his e-mails on certain days and certain times.
Set a time frame to get them done
Here’s the fun bit! Once you’ve set your tasks, allot time blocks to them and set a time!
For example, for writing this I gave myself 1 hour. That was not including research (although I sneaked a bit of research in as I was doing this).
Sure I could’ve been generous and given myself two hours, but with no distractions and complete focus, an hour is more than enough (for me).
Make sure you give yourself the time you really think you need.
Commit to no distractions
- Keep your phone in another room or somewhere you can’t read it
- Let your employees/loving but over bearing family members know you’re completely unavailable for this hour
- Compete with yourself – watch the clock and remember that this is the time frame your giving yourself
- Use music to help you stay focused & block out outside noise (if it works for you)
- Keep a list next to you – sometimes you will come up with ideas or things you want to remember so write it down to deal with later
Commit to giving yourself this time to nut your task out.
So once the hour, half an hour, two hours or whatever time you’ve given yourself is done, reflect on it.
Was it enough time?
Were you distracted?
Were the distractions something you can control?
How can you prevent these distractions next time?
How do you feel about getting this task done?
Celebrate if you’ve smashed a task out!
As I said before, I set myself one hour to get this piece out. And I did it in an hour. Usually it takes me two between fluffing around, finding research and using Instagram.
I wasn’t without distractions and I checked a message or two in between. But I was a lot more productive than I’ve ever been writing before. And it made this a lot easier to get done.
So try it and see if it helps to minimize distractions and get pushing through that list of to dos!
Try it and let us know what your experience was.
Or if you already do this, do you have any other tips and tricks you can recommend?