I have owned 14 different companies, often several at the same time. I’ve seen 4 successful exits and been clobbered twice. I love what I do and I wake up naturally at 6:00 am. I have tremendous discipline and believed, for many years, that I was the exception. I knew in my soul that I was good at multitasking. I WAS WRONG. Yep, I admit it. Flat out wrong. Multitasking is a rationalization and it actually steals time from us.
There is a great book written by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan called “The One Thing”. This book features a lot of great information, but one thing really resonated with me: multitasking is counterproductive. Their research suggested it actually makes us around 30% less effective. When we multitask and spend our time in transitions, jumping from project to project, stopping and restarting, multiple studies show we are much more ineffective with our time. I was sure I was the exception, so I thought I would put this theory to the test.
I began to try what Keller and Papasan call “time blocking”. This is where, once you have identified your most important objectives of the day (your daily “Rocks” to steal a Steven Covey term), you block out specific times throughout that day to work on the project and only that project. Focus only on that one thing with phones and computers in airplane mode until it is finished. The theory was that this approach would result in getting much more quality work done in a shorter period of time.
Remember, when I first tried this, I believed I was the exception; I was an expert at multitasking. I dove in and within 10 minutes I found myself standing outside my office doing something else and getting a coffee, completely off my designated task. Crap…how did that happen? I really didn’t need this coffee. I don’t even remember deciding to go get this coffee! But here I am, not doing what I agreed with myself was my most important task for this block of time. Being my own best task master, I gave myself a stern warning and went back to my desk to focus. 7 minutes later, I checked my email. I was off task and getting distracted again without even thinking about it. (Hence my reason for suggesting airplane mode.) Cracks in my “expert” multitasking skills began to show–my deprogramming and retraining was going to take some time. However, while retraining myself I realized, begrudgingly, that I was actually getting much more done. I have continued this discipline and now consider myself a complete and total convert. I fully embrace the idea that focused energy on one project at a time is much more effective and that multitasking is horribly inefficient.
With that in mind, here is another exercise, like our first, to get yourself on track:
Simple Exercise 2:
As we preach in EOS, ‘simpler is always better’. Give this a week and see if it makes a difference. If it does, start to build on it and run with it by “time blocking” more of your day.
1. Each morning when you start your day, review the list of what you need to do and come up with the three most important items that will impact your long-term success.
2. Take the most important of these three things and work on it and only that for half an hour. No phone calls, interruptions, coffee breaks, emails, news or Facebook, just this one thing.
3. Take a second half an hour focused on your regular to-do list. Maintain the same focus on each thing at a time until it is fully complete.
4. Repeat the process as often as you can throughout the day.
5. At the end of your week look at your completed daily “time blocked” focus areas and ask these three questions:
a. Did you get more, quality work accomplished during the week?
b. Was there any catastrophic issue that occurred in those focused time blocks that could not be addressed outside of those time blocks?
c. Did you move the needle for the long run and get closer to your primary goal?
If you are like many who do this, you may have just figured out how to give yourself an extra 10% to %20 or even 30% more time, every day.
Did this work for you? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments.