Should you multi task or single task?
That really depends whether you want to succeed or set yourself up with a multitude of excuses to fail.
Let me explain. Right now, I’m writing this blog post at home. Before beginning it I made a number of choices (within my sphere of influence) about what I want to achieve in the next 40 minutes of my life.
First, I set the work flow timer to 40 minutes. (I use the deluxe version of the Time Left product from http://timeleft.info )
Then I make sure that the following are closed and cannot possibly interrupt this task:
My email account.
My Skype account.
My Feedburner page.
My Web page statistics screen.
My YouTube Videos page.
And then I begin to write.
Of course there are some distractions that I cannot control:
My daughter cleaning the living room.
My dog barking at my daughter.
The background noise of the radio my wife is listening to.
I feel pretty good about the distractions I can control.
I only check email after 12 noon – and the target is for only once in the evening.
I only use Skype when I need to communicate e.g. business partners, family or clients.
I struggle a bit with Feedburner because it can be addictive to follow blog subscriber statistics.
I really struggle with not checking Web page statistics because it is endlessly fascinating to see which pages are popular etc. The only prevention is to close my browser.
I’ve had to be ruthless with YouTube. It is a real time waster when you are busy on a specific task. I remember writing a blog post where I referenced the music of Steve Winwood, a 1960s artist still going strong and lined up to do a concert with Eric Clapton in New York in 2008. And then I decided to check YouTube to see if some of his videos were up there (hey don’t call me, call YouTube’s lawyers.)
90 minutes later I was still watching and listening to not just his videos, but to others from the 1980s – my 20-something decade. That single blog post took over 2 hours to write and post because I was not focused on a controllable outcome.
Now for some of those distractions I cannot control I have to be both tactful and flexible. If I complain to my family about the noise it can signal a lot of discussions about me needing to get out more (I’m being polite here. All you need to know is that most Tokyo apartments are on the small side.)
And even though the vacuum cleaning has finished, I can now hear my wife teaching Japanese Kanji to our daughter in the living room. Since I also value my daughter’s bilingualism this is a distraction I can choose to accept in order to be able to work from home.
With 37 minutes counted down and 3 remaining, I think I have made my point about focusing on one task at a time. What say you?
– Mark McClure