“My coffee is cold again.”
“I burned dinner!”
“I don’t remember the drive home, I somehow just got here.”
“When I’m at a stoplight it’s ok to text or email. I’m just sitting here stalled in traffic, right?”
“I have 10 browsers open on my computer and can’t seem to focus…”
Let’s all agree to wake up from the misperception that being productive means doing more, and doing everything all at once. It doesn’t work. We know this, and some of us can even feel the stress in our bodies, yet somehow we have become addicted to the frantic, scattered, immediate gratification mindset of our modern society.
Your Focus needs Focus.
Instead of multi-tasking, I talk with my clients and students about unitasking. Do. One. Thing. Well.
Start to finish.
Then move on to the next most meaningful project on your plate.
The structure (our current job, commitments, and ‘pressing’ items on our calendar) or lack of structure (hello, entrepreneurs?) that we tolerate in our lives can help create this feeling of “I’m not doing enough” or “I have to do more” – which many people translate as “I’m not enough.” Can you relate?
I love the saying ‘how we spend our day is how we spend our lives.’ Are you focused on what you truly value? Do you spend your resources (time, energy, money) on what will really move the needle forward in terms of your health, happiness, and satisfaction?
Humans are creatures of habit, sure. Habits can change.
So how do we create change?
Awareness first. If you know you identify as a chronic multitasker or easily become hooked with ‘squirrels and shiny object’ syndromes, there’s hope. Really. You can train your mind and consciousness to attune to new levels of focus and new time management skills. Ultimately, this is a conversation about integrity and boundaries.
To be distracted or deeply focused are choices I make.
Understand this statement as truth, and that you have a choice. Always.
How To Become A Better ‘Unitasker’
1) Remove distractions.
Turn off the notifications: the dings and whirs and buzzes from your devices that continually interrupt your flow. The world won’t end (really) if you do email at one, maybe 2, designated times per day. You don’t need to see that facebook photo someone tagged you in (really). Or post what you ate for lunch (guilty).
I deleted the facebook app from my phone because I felt how hooked into it I had become. And changed my settings so it doesn’t bring up the FB on my safari favorites, either. That little change, making it an extra step to log in from mobile shifted it for me. Facebook happens at my desk, on my computer.
My phone stays on silent the majority of the time. And you know what? There’s an odd synchronicity that I’ve noticed where when someone is calling that I really welcome an opportunity to talk with – I happen to be looking at my phone or pick it up in that moment. Other callers, well, they go to voicemail and I get to it when I have the space to truly respond to their request or questions. Sorry, not sorry.
These sounds and notifications are training our brains to be really good at distractions. And that brings down productivity and enjoyment on what really matters.
2) Find an object of meditation.
Basically, when we select a focus we are giving our mind a job – attaching our concentration to this object or task and following it, observing it. This naturally weeds out distractions as we go deep with the project at hand – or the relationship we’re cultivating with the person in front of us. One. Thing.
Make your daily grind into rituals with deep, joyful focus. I am here, with myself. I am here, with you. I am breathing and smiling as I do this one thing well.
Say it with me, “This one thing deserves my best. So I’m going deep. This is my meditation.”
I generally have an ongoing to do list on my desk for weekly/monthly broad brushstrokes of what needs to happen – the nitty gritty tasks that get me to the bigger vision of what I’m creating and crafting. But this list, although it’s helpful and I love crossing things off said list – it’s never done. There will always be more.
And a lot of the items ending up on our to do list aren’t moving us forward.
So I choose 2-3 main business related tasks each day that need to happen – if these get done, I know I’m moving toward my ultimate vision of growing my business, serving clients at a higher level, and offering more meaningful opportunities and insights. The other tasks can wait, or they get my laser focused, kick-ass mindset of a game I created for myself. It doesn’t have a name, this game, I just decided that those items are not allowed to become time sucks (working on the perfect wording for an email, messing with graphics, or trying to fix something on my blog/website). Those small tasks either get knocked out of the park – and I move on to bigger things – or they get delegated to my business assistant/tech person.
Be selective. Build discipline so your day reflects the life you desire.
There’s a sneaky thing called context switching (I picked this up from Todd Herman) that robs us of our productivity. When we switch from say, bookkeeping and paying bills, to creative flow for writing a blog, to leaving the house to go teach a class or see a client, we waste valuable time by doing many different things back to back.
Switching task types requires transition time – sometimes logistically for getting from point a to point b for our next engagement – and always internally, in terms of how we are using our brains and bodies.
Look at your schedule. What meetings or committees feel like a waste of time? They likely may be.
How can you rearrange your weekly work flow so that meetings all happen on the same day, creative projects have blocks of time to devote to making real progress, and yes – block out your personal time, too.
If you had to color code the different categories of where you spend your time throughout a week, imagine big blocks of the same color, not slivers of a myriad of colors all stacked on top of each other like those rainbow-striped crayons would draw.
Give yourself the space to get into a groove with a type of project, by chunking your schedule.
Example: I have one day per week that I schedule all my online clients. Other days where I am at the studio teaching classes, and seeing clients in person. Then big blocks of beautiful time at home for writing and creating, and for business strategy and marketing. And, you know, Nature. Movement. Rest.
Limit context switching, and you’ll do better work in less time – because you get to go deep and get it done.
I’d love to hear what tip you’ll use from this blog – or let me know your favorite strategies for Unitasking. Talk to me in the comments below.
Here’s to be purposefully, joyfully productive – so we can get on with having more fun!
PS: Why am I, a Movement Educator/Yoga Therapist, writing about productivity and time management? Because as humans, our beliefs about time and prioritizing our lives affect everything – not just our work day or career, but how we care for our mind, body, spirit and energy. If you implement these tips, I guarantee you can see a positive ripple effect from your work or creative life out into your ability to live in and with your body. If you’ve been trying to make changes to your health and fitness for a while now, it may not be an issue of knowledge, resources, or your body’s capacity to change. I’m convinced in your capacity to change and heal. It may come down to your relationship to time. Message me on the contact page if this is resonating, I’d love to talk with you.
See you in the comments!