Most of us spend our lives at war with time–and time usually wins. We’ve all read books and some of us have taken several courses on the subject as well, and, for the most part the books and courses seem to rehash the same common sense. But still, the feeling of being overwhelmed and under-productive is constant.
The big breakthrough came after I had read an article written by a teacher whose student had severe dyslexia and had asked for help. Not knowing what to do, the teacher turned to an expert on learning disorders, and was advised to let the student take the exam in the teachers office, giving him short breaks every 20 minutes. The student did very well, and surprised and intrigued by this the teacher went on to develop a technique known as the Multiple Put down Technique.
Having read his article, I’ve used this technique myself on any project I’ve worked on and it works!
How does it work?
The most important thing to remember about this technique is that the gold is in the details, so follow the instructions exactly. No matter what project or task you decide to work on, make sure to work the task in 20-minute increments, with absolute focus, and then put it down, over and over, until you’re done, in order to do this properly make sure to:
- Alert your brain that a task is coming that will require its recall, creativity, and brilliance (yes, your brain is brilliant). Then let some time pass–maybe, a day.
- When you’re ready to start, set a timer for 20 minutes, such as the stopwatch feature on a smart phone. Set your mobile phone to airplane mode, turn off your email, and silence all other distractions. Then hit start on the timer.
- During the 20 minutes, you must focus on that task without interruption. And unless the building burns down, do nothing but work on that task until the timer goes off. You may hit the wall, but keep going. The vast majority of people find they can work on that task “in the zone” until the timer goes off.
- After 20 minutes, you have a choice: keep working or take a break. If you keep working, reset the timer to 20 minutes and go through the process again without interruption until the next 20 minutes are up. If you decide to take a break, it can be short (such as refilling your coffee cup), medium (returning a phone call) or long (going into a meeting, or working out).
That’s it. You pick it up and put down over and over, hence the name “Multiple Put Down.” Reports show from the thousands of people who have learned the technique is that you are much more efficient–often finishing a task in 30-50% of the time it would take if you worked on it in one sitting.
Even better, the quality of the work is far superior than if you followed your mother’s advice of “start early and just get it done.” There are other benefits, too: less stress, reduced frustration, and a general feeling of being brilliant!
There are several advantages to the Multiple Put Down technique. The first is that your brain is brilliant at running processes in the background, but is awful at multitasking. While you’re driving to work, in the shower or answering email, your brain will be working in the background on the task, so that when you’re ready, it’ll drain through your fingers, into your computer or notepad, for about 20 minutes. The break allows your brain to restock the supply of brilliance. Each time you go through the process is a “productivity unit.”
Here are some tasks that are perfectly suited for Multiple Put Down: writing a report, preparing a pitch for a client or boss, figuring out how to solve a tough problem.
Here’s my challenge to you: right now, take a task that’s nagging at you and use Multiple Put Down on it. I hope you’ll share how it goes by posting a comment below.
In this age of instant technology, we are bombarded with an overload of information and demands of our time. Most of us are usually working on two projects at once when new ones are placed on our desks and to add to this we’re on the phone to someone who has a million questions about something and three new emails have just come in.
Before you know it you are juggling tasks with a speed worthy of Super Mario! Congratulations, multi-tasker.
This week’s post is not about being more efficient in your multi-tasking, instead, I’m going to do the opposite – I’m going to show you how not to multi task!
Recent research shows that multitasking can make us less efficient instead of more so and it can be hard to identify when you’re multitasking. But there are a few key indicators you can look for:
If you have several pages or tabs open on your computer, then you’re probably multitasking. The same goes for your desk – if you have several file folders or papers out that you’re working on, you might well be multitasking.
Multitasking is more likely when you’re working on a project or task you’re not excited about. For instance, creating a spread sheet analysis might be an unwelcome task, so you might frequently check your email or do some research on a new assignment in order to lessen the pain of the current task.
Frequent interruptions can also cause you to multitask. For instance, you might be writing your Business’ budget when a colleague comes into your office with a question for you. You then carry on trying to tinker with the budget as you answer their question.
How to Stop Multitasking
If we want to improve the quality of our work, lower our stress levels, and become more efficient, then we need get out of the multitasking habit. Below are some suggestions to help you cut back on multitasking:
Plan your day in blocks. Set specific times for returning calls, answering emails, and doing research.
Manage your interruptions. Keep a log showing who interrupts you the most, and how urgent the requests are. Once you’ve compiled a week’s worth of interruptions, politely but assertively approach your colleagues with a view to managing and reducing their interruptions.
Learn how to improve your concentration so you can focus properly on one task at a time. Doing this may feel awkward at first if you frequently multitask. But you’ll be surprised at how much you get done just by concentrating on one thing at a time.
Every time you go to check your email or take a call when you’re actually supposed to be doing something else, take a deep breath and resist the urge. Focus your attention back to what you’re supposed to be doing.
If you get an audible or visual alert when emails come in, turn it off. This can help you avoid the temptation to check your inbox whenever you get new mail.
Whenever you find yourself multitasking, stop. Take five minutes to sit quietly at your desk with your eyes closed. Even short breaks like this can refocus your mind, lower your stress levels, and improve your concentration. Plus it can give your brain a welcome break during a hectic day.
There will be times when something urgent comes up and you can’t avoid interruptions. But instead of trying to multitask through these, stop and make a note of where you left your current task. Record any thoughts you had about how to move forward. Then deal with the immediate problem, before going back to what you were doing. This way you’ll be able to handle both tasks well, and you’ll leave yourself with some clues to help you restart the original task more quickly.
If you find your mind wandering when you should be focusing on something else, you need to guide your thoughts back to what you are doing by putting yourself in the moment. For example, you might be sitting in an important team meeting, but thinking about a speech you’ll be giving soon. Tell yourself, “I am in this meeting, and need to focus on what I’m learning here.” Often, acknowledging the moment can help keep you focused.
Remember it’s important, for your mental health, your sanity, and your productivity. You simply cannot be at your most effective if you are running around, putting out fires, and getting over stressed because of it. Taking the time to gain that control will make all the difference in the world. If you find it very difficult to do this, consider outsourcing some tasks, it’s less for you to deal with. Contact us if you think we can help: email@example.com.
Picture the scene. Your desk is covered with so much stuff you can no longer see it. Papers are piled on top of papers. You ring your phone and it’s buried under the mound of papers. A trail of coffee cups litters the office. And you wonder why you’re feeling snowed under?
Clutter clogs up the wheels of your business. If you can’t find things when you need them, you can’t run your business efficiently. You spend your days distracted, scrabbling around for things you need, instead of driving your business forward.
Why are our desks so cluttered? Often, it’s because we can’t decide what to do with the things we have. We cling to them for longer than we need to, ‘just in case.’ Or we can’t decide where things should go, so we just let them sit there. Then there are the things we just don’t want to deal with!
If you want to beat clutter, you have to be ruthless. Do a total clear out of your desk, shelves and work station. Divide the items into three piles, things to keep, things to store and things to throw away.
Arrange for the throwaway pile to be recycled, trashed or donated to charity. Designate a storage spot for the things to store pile. Create a filing system for the things you want to keep and organise them in filing cabinets, cupboards and shelves.
You should be left with only the things that you use regularly. Organise these things on your desk by like items. For example, stationery can go in one drawer, telephone directories in another. Keeping these items separate means you can lay your hands on them easily.
How do you decide what to keep? Look around your office. Ask yourself, ‘Do I really need that document, that thumbtack, that dying plant?” Keep things that lift your mood, that make you smile, that inspire you.
If you take control of your office chaos, there’ll be nothing to keep you from fulfilling your dreams. For an uncluttered office and an uncluttered business, contact The Virtual office firstname.lastname@example.org