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.
Do you wish that you had more hours in your day? Does your to-do list keep getting bigger instead of smaller? Is your desk covered in clutter? Are you working longer hours, yet still not getting enough done?
It’s easy to feel that time is running away on us. When that happens, we can feel stressed. We talk about our heads being fried, or about to explode. And in the end, our work and family life suffers.
Why do we find it so difficult to manage our time? A lot of the time, we take too much on. We find it hard to say no when people ask us to do something and we don’t delegate jobs to our staff and colleagues. We allow ourselves to be distracted by things happening around us. And when we have a difficult job to do, it’s easy to put it off, which makes it even harder to start.
When it comes to managing your time, attitude is everything. Better time management starts with a decision to make a change. It’s a kind of mind makeover. And it starts with a bit of tough talking, admitting to yourself that your habits are causing you to waste time and need to be changed. And that it’s time for the excuses to stop.
Next, you need to think about what changes you can make to take your business to the next level. It’ll mean leaving your comfort zone, but if you can embrace those changes, you’ll really feel the benefits. Here are some examples of a few simple changes that have worked for us.
Write it down. Write a list of all the jobs you will need to do, in the short, medium and long term. Once you have a handle on what’s ahead of you, your mind will feel clearer.
Prioritise. Go through your list and decide which tasks are most urgent and important. Set yourself a date for when it will be achieved, whether it’s today, this week, this month or even this year. And keep your eye on those goals. If anyone distracts you from them, learn to say a polite no.
Be realistic. Arrange your schedule in a way that fits your business and lifestyle. Recognise that it won’t be possible to get everything done and resist the temptation to cram your timetable. That way, if unexpected challenges crop up, you’ll have the flexibility to deal with them.
Limit Distractions. Keep concentrating on what you need to do and learn to shut out excess noise. Resist the urge to keep checking emails and Facebook and answer the phone. Handle email, social media and phone calls in batches.
Delegate. It’s tempting to think you can do things faster yourself. But a few extra minutes spent explaining a job to a member of staff will save you hours in the long run. You can give them the routine jobs, while you get on with the major tasks.
The Virtual Office can save you time. Find out how by calling 051 351286.