Updated: Dec 24, 2019
Heads up. Last week we visited the first three time grabbers that adversely affect productivity for most of us. If you haven't read this yet, please click here, as this post is the second half.
In an effort to lay the foundation for our decluttering method called Simplify, we are tackling the topic of PRODUCTIVITY. Can't start a life-changing decluttering habit without getting some basics in place, right? And we can't be effective at this new life-changing habit unless we reclaim some time––ridding our lives of some time grabbers that are stealing our precious 960 minutes a day. We dealt with three last week:
1- Procrastination & Clutter
3- Emotional Issues
Today we'll be looking at four more that try to steal our time and kill our productivity. Let's kill these time grabbers so we can get to the process of simplifying our lives...
I have always been able to handle many things at once. Bran gives me quite a few things to do to help with his TV production, customer service, and the like, so juggling various jobs at once has always been the norm for me. Some people are not like this and have to focus on one thing at a time. But before you start wishing you were like me, let me quickly tell you that multi-tasking is not the optimal way to be as productive as possible. Studies show that when you constantly are switching back and forth between tasks, your brain takes time to re-adjust and this takes a toll on productivity.
Researchers who study what happens to cognition (mental processes) when people try to perform more than one task at a time have found that the mind and brain were not designed for heavy-duty multitasking. They tend to liken the job to choreography or air-traffic control, noting that in these operations, as in others, mental overload can result in catastrophe. (source)
Think about it. If you’re performing two tasks at once, you have two sets of rules, two sets of parameters to work within. If these are important tasks that require concentration and creative effort and feedback, you’ll come up short and be unable to do the best job possible. You’ll finish the tasks, I’m sure, but it will require more time and either you will miss important details of both tasks, or the quality of the outcome will suffer.
Now, before you object, I must clarify that I'm not talking about tasks that require little to no brain energy. We all can handle multitasking when it comes to listening to a podcast while exercising, reading a book while commuting to work on a subway, stuffing envelopes for a mailing campaign while watching Netflix. Mindless tasks can be combined to actually motivate us to work and get the menial jobs done faster. Tasks that use different parts of our brain are OK to combine. I encourage people to especially take advantage of time sitting in waiting rooms for appointments, in line at the store, etc., to write lists, check emails, return texts, etc. This is being productive and using our time wisely. But what happens when we try to do two "thinking" tasks at once, switching back and forth between the two?
Attention Residue. Yes––they have actually given a name to the issue of your brain still trying to process information regarding the previous task. (source) Constantly trying to regain focus after a time grabber incident, or after switching back and forth between tasks, helps build "Attention Residue." Studies show it takes 20 minutes to fully recover from a switch. You should strip the residue by focussing on one task at a time. Your productivity will soar and the brain fog will disappear.
PhD and author, Guy Winch says, “When it comes to attention and productivity, our brains have a finite amount.” He goes on to teach that productivity is wasted because your attention is expended on the act of switching gears, and you never get fully “in the zone” for either task. This is a problem.
Have you ever heard of the acronym OHIO? This is a principle taught by organizers, and also by experts who handle patients with ADHD. It stands for “Only Handle It Once,” and refers to the immediate handling of mundane tasks to avoid the piling up of decisions to make later. It’s the “do it now” mentality that keeps procrastination at bay. For those with ADHD (who normally have organizational difficulties), they don’t have to remember to do it later, thus, freeing up stress. It works for the rest of us, too. But what does this mean in relation to multitasking? I'm mentioning OHIO because It’s pretty much impossible to pull it off while handling multiple tasks at once. This is also something to keep in mind. By multi-tasking, you'll have residue AND not be able to "OHIO." 😊
In an article published in the Stanford Report on August 24, 2009, explains:
People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time, a group of Stanford researchers has found.
He ends his article with these profound words: “By doing less, you might accomplish more.” Yes, I know that multi-tasking seems like it's helping you accomplish more, but it truly isn't. It means you're not giving your full attention to the task at hand. Why not make it simple and focus on one thing at a time? Once you finish, move on. In our Simplify method, we will be talking about doing tasks one at a time in order to obtain the highest efficiency and productivity. I am all about saving time, trust me. But I’m realizing that when I pour 100% effort into one task at a time, I get better returns.
5- NOT HAVING A PLAN
How many times has your day been sabotaged because well–meaning family or friends have eagerly transferred their own personal deadlines and stress over to you, and since you "had no plans," you couldn't say no? Having a plan in place means getting to honestly say, “I’m so sorry, I’m swamped today. Wish I could help, but I’m unable to.” Or, if you’re able and willing, you could say, “I do have some time this afternoon, between 2 and 4, if you need my help.”
Having a plan in place helps determine where you’re headed, helps avoid pesky detours, and in the long run, increases your productivity. What’s not to love?
"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." -Benjamin Franklin
When we plan, we also save money (along with time). Case in point. You realize you have a little time to run to the grocery store between appointments. You jump in the car, race over there, grab a cart, and run in only to find that you don't have your grocery list or recipe you're making tonight. So you rush down each aisle hoping that items will magically pop out at you so you can grab them and go. But in the end, you purchase unneeded items seized in haste, often unhealthy, and steal valuable time by trying to remember what you need, traipsing through the entire store instead of just the required aisles, often having to make a second trip for the forgotten items.
And how often have you wasted time trying to figure out what you should be doing, resorting to aimlessly working on minor tasks that seem to scream for attention just because they’re visible?
According to Brian Tracy, author & motivational speaker,
“It takes only about 10 to 12 minutes for you to plan out your day, but this small investment of time will save you up to two hours (100 to 120 minutes) in wasted time and diffused effort through the day.”