GETTING MORE DONE WITH FOCUS
Multitasking isn’t what it’s all hyped up to be
I used to have my email open during 9 or 10 hours of my work day – I would never close it. As I was working on one project for one client, I would receive email after email and I would quickly glance over to see what they were.
Sometimes I just needed to send a file, so I would hit reply, bring up a Finder window, grab the file, and send it off to the client. Quick and easy, right?
Well, then another email would come in and I would take care of that, then something goes awry with a printer and I would have to unjam it. Finally, once I got back to the project I was originally working on, I would have a hard time trying to remember what I was doing before I answered that first email.
Now I’m wasting time just trying to regain my focus and once I do and start working on the project full-steam, another email comes in.
Maybe this story sounds familiar – a lot of us have been taught that it is good to be able to multitask and try to take care of a lot of things at once, but what if I told you we can be way more efficient and get more done in less time without multitasking?
Computers are meant for multitasking
People? Not so much
Computers today can do a lot of things at once. You can listen to music, run every design app to your hearts desire, all while you have you web browser open with ten tabs. That’s a lot all at once, and a computer can do this seamlessly, but that’s what it was built for.
We as humans can only focus on one thing at a time. You aren’t truly multitasking, you’re just shifting between the tasks constantly.
Your brain is consciously thinking of one task. At a subconscious level, you are solving problems, but you aren’t aware of it.
You have two eyes, but they look in the same direction.
You have one mouth and can only speak at one time.
Your ears allow you to hear to a lot of things, but you either hear it all as noise or you concentrate at listening to just one of those things.
You aren’t doing a whole bunch of things at once because your body requires you to focus on one task at a time.
Boost your focus by shutting out all distractions
You may be thinking “Scott, there are things you can multitask.”
Yeah, sure. You can listen to music while you draw. But what if you just focused on drawing where your only attention is with the pencil and paper instead of listening to that song for the twentieth time? Try it. You might find yourself a little less distracted.
Of course, don’t get me wrong. I love to listen to music or podcasts while I work on a typical day, but try eliminating all possible distractions and focus only on the task at hand. You’ll realize that your productivity level will go through the roof.
You will get more time in a day
By focusing on one thing at a time, you won’t lose time trying to pick up where you left off because you never left.
Research shows it takes around 25 minutes to totally regain your focus on a task.
(New York Times Brain, Interrupted, Fast Company Worker, Interrupted: The Cost of Task Switching, Lifehacker How Long It Takes to Get Back on Track After a Distraction)
This means if you’re working on a project, then an email comes in that you reply to, you waste time answering that email, then regaining focus back on the project at hand.
Think about all of those little distractions that come in over the day: emails, Facebook notifications, text messages, etc. How many times did you get distracted and have to shift your focus? Now multiply that by 25 minutes. How much time can you figure you wasted? Now, imagine what you could have done with that time.
Could you have gotten some more practice in? Could you finally have a chance to read that book that’s collecting dust?
Deciding to focus your time and eliminate outside distractions will provide you with more time each day to do the things you love even more.
How to train yourself to start focusing
- Pomodoro technique – This is a great way to just get yourself started to focusing your time if you haven’t done it much recently. Set aside just 25 minutes of distraction-free time and get to work.
- Airplane mode – Your smart phone is most likely the main source to your distractions. Turning on airplane mode or Do Not Disturb will obviously cut out those notifications during your focus time.
- Turn off notifications – A level up from just momentarily turning off the distractions: just stop them from happening. Facebook, emails, Twitter, ESPN, news, etc. The more you turn off, the less that can distract you.
- Shut down email – This was one of the biggest solutions for myself. After quitting mail on my computer, it would allow me to focus on the project at hand. I would complete the project, start mail back up, reply to the quick and easy ones, find the next project, quit mail, and start working again.
- Close all of the distracting tabs – If you find yourself going back to your browser and autopiloting to a timewasting website such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, ESPN, etc. just close them for now.
- Realize your time wasters – Take note (literally) of what you allow yourself to get distracted by and refer back to this list throughout your day.
- Shut the door – If you work from home and your family is there playing or watching tv, just close your door to separate you from those little distractions.
- Tell the people around you – Request no one to bother you for the next half hour or so. It might be awkward at first, but after they understand why, it will be easier, they will expect it.
Focus throughout your life
You can obviously use these techniques outside of your career – use it throughout your life. If you have a day job, try focusing on each task one at a time before moving onto the next. You’ll find you get things done sooner and give you more time to work on your own passion (if your job allows you to do it) otherwise, you’ll just open up time for yourself and decrease your stress level.
Another great area to eliminate distractions is with your family. Eliminate the distractions that can pull you away from family time – they will appreciate it and you will build a better relationship with them.
No more of those “Where was I?” moments
Sometimes there are emergencies that require your attention away from your work. Maybe there’s a fire, or someone has gotten hurt, but these aren’t frequent. In most cases, you just need to change your mindset and work on focusing on the task at hand until it is finished.
Stop trying to do so much at once and start focusing on one thing at a time. You will find that as you start focusing your time, you will avoid the stress of being confused and gain extra time at the end of the day for the things you truly enjoy.
If you’re still struggling with your focus, let me know. Send me a message in the form below.