There are people that will tell you multitasking doesn't work. And in some cases, I would agree. Focus is ideal.
But when it comes to mundane tasks, I multitask every chance I get. I fold clothes while on the phone, work out while I watch TV, catch up on things like social media & blog comments from my mobile device when I'm standing around waiting on something, etc.
But one thing that works even better for me than multitasking, is MICRO-tasking. This simply means that I break almost everything down into "bite sized" tasks that I can do in a matter of minutes. Micro-Tasking has really improved my productivity...
If you're like me, you're very familiar with distraction and overwhelm.
Working from home can make for a distracting work space. Even if your space is quiet, we all have our own internal distractions. Focus, self-discipline and motivation don't always come easy! And of course working online is distracting by nature.
There are other reasons to improve your efficiency and productivity as well. For example, this year I decided to exercise daily and also increase my social schedule. Both of which require more time, which had to come from somewhere.
Regardless of your situation or personal struggles, I'm guessing you would really like to get more done in less time...
The Time Log Exercise
Keeping a Time Log is a great way to monitor how you spend your time, see your most productive times of day, and discover how you can improve your daily routine.
Keep track of every single thing you do for three straight days.
You can use a notepad on your desk, but I prefer to use Evernote given I don't spend the entire day in my office.
I put everything in my Time Log. What time I wake up, what I work on, phone calls, personal tasks, how long I nap, errands, etc - and include how long each activity or task takes. This is a really quick way to see where you're wasting time, and an easy way to compare time-wasters against money-makers.
It's an eye-opening exercise that will seriously improve your productivity!
Using Time Blocks
I'm a very routine person by nature, but I do not thrive on a strict schedule. I've tried creating a schedule in the past and found it very frustrating. It left me feeling defeated when I couldn't stick to it for one reason or another.
Instead I use what I call "time blocks" which are specific blocks of time set aside to achieve specific tasks. They're very flexible in that I can do them any time of day, which works best with my creative flow.
Time Blocks are only used for my highest priority tasks. If you're creating a digital product, you might set aside one hour every day to work on that product. If you struggle with staying on top of email, you might set aside 30 minutes every morning to focus on that. I even have personal time blocks - one of mine being exercise, which is flexible time-wise just so long as I do *something* active every single day.
The key is to turn everything else off, block out all other distractions, and focus 100% on the task at hand during any given Time Block.
I use check boxes in my Evernote file and make a game of checking off all of my Time Blocks each day.
You'll be amazed how much you can accomplish in even a short amount of focused time! It can be a real challenge to sit down and complete a project start to finish without getting distracted (or bored, even). But consistently working on a project, or toward your goal, in focused Time Blocks is how I discovered REAL results.
Even with a focused Time Block set aside to work on something specific, that task can often seem overwhelming as a whole.
I break everything on my task list down into VERY simple micro-tasks. This serves two purposes: it prevents overwhelm, and it gives me that constant sense of accomplishment - which tends to keep my motivation up.
To give you some examples my task list might include: call dentist, reply to blog comments, respond to Facebook Page comments, decide on next blog post topic, water plants, reply to email about advertising, etc.
If I have a few minutes, I can usually knock out 1-3 simple tasks. My goal is to move as many items from the "to-do" list to the "done" list as I can in a day.
Of course, my priority tasks and creative work take longer time blocks, so I schedule those accordingly. I get up early and do the priority tasks first - while the house is still quiet and before distractions start for the day.
But anytime I'm between time blocks, or have a few extra minutes, I can mark off a micro-task. Or two or three or five.
I even do this when writing a blog post. I rarely go from idea to published post all in one sitting. I start with an idea, then:
- jot down idea & save as draft
- find keyword phrase for the post
- find & insert image
- insert placeholders for each element (intro, outline, conclusion/call-to-action, signature, p.s.)
... then complete each of those sections/elements individually.
You can see a live example of that here.
Sometimes my work space is just too distracting (or *I* am too distracted) to sit down and complete a whole task - like writing a blog post. By breaking it down into micro-tasks, it gets done bit by bit as I have time. I can get most of it done in one sitting, or piece it together over the course of the day.
The great thing about breaking bigger projects down is that it makes them easier to do AND you don't have to set aside a whole block of time to do it all at once.
You simply follow the steps, or do the micro-tasks. It gets easier over time once you get a "system" in place for things like writing blog posts, writing articles, creating reports, shooting/editing/publishing videos, etc.
I would love to hear if you use Time Blocks or Micro-Tasking, or how you beat distraction and overwhelm while working online and/or from home.
Leave a comment and share your favorite productivity tips below!