We live in a multitasking world. We are constantly bombarded by messages via email, LAN line phones, TV, radio, mobile devices, text messages, pop-ups on the internet, global conference calls at weird hours… the list goes on.
We think we can handle it, but all this multitasking and gear-switching robs us of our productivity while deluding us with thoughts that we’re accomplishing more than we are.
In order to get more things done, it’s important to follow some simple rules. I know rules are a challenge for creative, free-flowing types but trust me, incorporating a bit of structure will facilitate the achievement of your goals faster flitting from one thing to another.
Here are 5 simple steps to getting more things done faster.
1. Look at the task.
That may seem like a weird statement. If the task, for example, is to clean your messy desk, looking at that messy desk is likely to overwhelm or even frustrate you.
It may make you want to run out of the room screaming and find something more pleasant to do like chat with a co-worker or get something to eat.
What if the task is a writing an article or an email? Sharing at a blank piece of paper or empty ‘new message’ window, could paralyze you.
So why do I suggest that you look at the task?
Because it will allow you to focus.
Take a few slow deep breaths. Allow yourself to relax a bit. Don’t judge yourself, the task or the person who assigned it to you. Just breathe and relax.
Close your eyes if that helps you relax. Imagine what the finished ‘project’ looks/feels like. Allow yourself to feel grateful and proud that you’ve completed it. Hold that vision and those feelings of accomplishment in your mind for several moments.
2. Think about the steps.
With your now calm mind and still closed eyes, map out your strategy. Think about the actions you could take, the points you want to make, the words you could use. Think it through first. Visualize the steps unfolding in natural order. If you’re writing, think about the person/people you’re writing to. Consider the points you want to make. Then open your eyes and do, write, move the first thing(s) that comes to mind. Trust yourself to accomplish your goal with grace and ease.
Even if you’re under a deadline, allowing yourself to get centered and focused will allow you to take more effective action. It will be time well spent.
3. Focus your attention on the task.
Avoid distractions. If music stimulates you, turn on your favorite tunes. I find classical music conducive to deep thinking. I find dance music stimulating for motion tasks (like cleaning). Do what works for you but stay focused on your task. Don’t drift off into reverie about any distracting memories that get evoked with your tunes. If that happens, turn the music off and focus on your task again.
4. Try your best to ignore distractions by others.
Shut off the ringer on your phone. Tell the kids/spouse/best friend at work, you’re not to be disturbed until… If an idea comes to you that you need to take action on, write it down. Resist the urge to do it, even if you think it’s quick. It probably won’t be as quick as you imagine and even if it is, you will have lost the momentum you’d gained on the original, important project you were working on.
5. Stop working only when you’re done.
If it’s a big project, consider setting a time limit. Staring down the throat of a monumental task, can indeed be overwhelming. Work on huge tasks 90 minutes at a time. Take a short break, then go back to work for another 90 minutes. Stay on task. Don’t move to another project. Stay on this on until it is complete or until you’ve reached the time you had allocated for it this go round.
BONUS STEP: When you’re done, reward yourself!
Give yourself a ‘High 5!’, ‘Atta girl! or Atta boy!’
Wallow, for a bit, in your sense of accomplishment, pride and relief. You’ve just completed something that was a big deal or had been sitting around nagging at you for too long.
A celebration is well in order. Don’t cheat yourself out of enjoying the moment!
Imagine yourself at the Olympics, having just crossed the finish line ahead of everyone else. Hear and feel the crowd cheering for you in all your glory. Feel the pride yourself and bring the memory of your accomplishment to the next daunting task you have to perform.
‘Cause you know there will be another one coming. But this time, you’ll be more prepared.