Productivity: Micro-Tasking and Multi-Tasking

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.

Micro-Tasking

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. ;-)

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Best,

About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 15 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...more»

Discussion

  1. You beat me to this post Lynn. I've been outlining a similar post having realized the other day how overwhelming creating a new software, plugin or app can be. Somehow, it all gets done and when thinking back, I use precisely the same method. Micro tasking.

    It's not enough to just chunk it down because you can still have big chunks. Rather, it's a breaking down of the chunks. I literally just focus on the smallest step until completion and move on to the next.

    I don't do well with strict schedules either, preferring a work-break-work method. Some have called it the Pomodoro technique. That works but the 15 minutes work/5 minutes break cycles are too short for me to accomplish anything in depth. 1 hour / 15 minutes cycles are best here.
    Lynette Chandler recently posted..Try This ➠ For Attention Grabbing Subject LinesMy Profile

    • Great way to put it: breaking it down to the smallest step. That's exactly what I consider "micro tasking" and what helps me get more done - with less overwhelm!

      The 15/5 cycle would be tough for me too. I really prefer to work with my creative flow, and work with the time I do have. By micro-tasking I am able to sit down and knock a few things out in a spare block of 10 minutes (waiting on one of the kids to finish getting ready, for example). Where I might otherwise think "I can't get anything done in a few short minutes so there's no point starting."

      It's amazing what all I accomplish at the end of even a busy/distracting day. ;-)
      Lynn Terry recently posted..Not Going To BlogWorld / New Media Expo?My Profile

  2. I have recently started to use time blocks and I find them much less stressful.
    The time log sounds like a good learning experience so I will add a new notebook to my Evernote.
    Jim recently posted..The Epley For DizzinessMy Profile

  3. Wow! New terms for me, I love it! Time blocks and Micro-tasking. I would like to apply it. Thanks for posting this Lynn.

  4. Great post Lynn! I do micro task too! I do them for chores around the house and I also do them for my blog too. It does make doing things a lot easier and you don't so overwhelmed.
    Maketta recently posted..Is This Blog Helpful?My Profile

  5. I once tried keeping a time log but found I spent more time working on it then doing the work I was supposed to be doing! Instead, I find it easier just to stick with a routine combined with not answering the phone when performing those duties that require the most concentration.

  6. Worth giving a try, constantly playing with schedules that never work, like the sound of micro-tasking!

  7. I've tried many different systems, but always seem to go back to the reward system... do a task (or two) and get a reward. Rewards can be play with the cat, or something as simple as opening up the front door, stepping out on the porch, and taking in some deep breaths of fresh air.

  8. A strict schedule doesn't work for me either. I just keep a list of long term and short term goals and make sure I do the ones that are highest in priority first. But having the long term goals, which are usually dream goals, keeps me interested and focused on getting everything done.

    I do multi task while on hold on a phone call. Things like cleaning out my email which doesn't take a lot of brain power.

  9. Hmmm…multi-tasking…micro-tasking. I dunno. Since I’m just a simple male, I try to tackle one thing at a time. Any more than that and it’s like information overload. Lol. But seriously, good points Lynn. Personally, I write down all the things that I have to get done that day. I number them 1-whatever. Usually 6. Then I start on number 1. I don’t quit until I finish. Then I’ll go to number 2 and so on.

    I found that if I could not finish my tasks that way, then I would not be able to finish them any other way either. Wow. I guess I really do only tackle one task at a time! Lol. Good times fuzzy bunnies!
    Shane Boyd recently posted..Are You Working, Or Just Chasing Fantasies?My Profile

  10. I am not a type of a person that believes in multi-tasking or can multi-task easily. I cannot do more than one thing at a time because then I cannot concentrate on either. I do not find anything wrong it. Everyone is different and perfect in their own way. Similarly, I am good in my own way. I will continue not to multi-task.

  11. Nice post.Micro-Tasking is a great way to keep you focused by concentrating on smaller tasks at hand and i prefer this idea.Multi-Tasking can be done but not while performing some important tasks where we require a high level of focus and concentration.

  12. Time blocks can be very useful with it comes to time management. I find myself trying to do a mixture of multi tasking and micro managing but it depends on the task at hand. Some things I know I need to handle with more caution and the things that are more mundane I try to multi task. Very interesting post!

  13. I find that I cannot multi-task - I end up achieving nothing!
    I'm not sure I call it micro-tasking, but for me, breaking down each task into individual steps, really works. I used to put something like 'tidy up website', which I found too big a task, so now I literally make a list of all the things I need to do that makes up this task. I think I learnt this from you, Lynn :)
    Caroline J recently posted..By: Caroline JMy Profile

  14. I prefer to use Multi-tasking when there tasks which do not require a great level of concentration and which can be managed simultaneously with other tasks at hand.It depends on the task at hand whether we should use Multi-Tasking or Micro-tasking.Thanks for sharing this post.

  15. You did it again Lynn, you've captured my full attention with this post! I can totally relate to the *overwhelmness* and is that a word? lol

    I find the very early morning hours, I feel the most productive. Your ideas and points in this post were head-on with me for sure!

    Micro-tasking...I will indeed give this a try. However, today I need to plow through my tax documents and take them into my tax adviser and it's (nail day-Yeah!)

    I will make notes and try to get back with you with my progress. Thanks again for such an amazing post! :-)

  16. This is a wonderful approach, Lynn -- simple, practical, and implementable. Thank you for giving us a way to fight the Overwhelm monster!

  17. I like to think I'm fairly organized but there is always room for improvement. I've always tried to multitask on the computer and listen to one thing while I read another. I'm finally realizing that I have to re-read and re-listen so it didn't save me any time at all. And lately I find it a big help if I ask myself every morning what my money-generating task for the day is and then make sure that gets done. Now I just need to try to get it done first so I'm not working until all hours trying to finish up:)
    Carol Bremner recently posted..Marketing OnlineMy Profile

  18. You make a great distinction on multi-tasking that I agree with. you can multi-task while doing mundane or routine tasks (like listening to that podcast as you drive to work) - but when it's a priority task - I like how you use a timer and block everything else out. Nothing beats focused attention when it is a priority task.

  19. I put this on your Facebook page, but I wanted to include it here too.
    THANK YOU for this post about micro-tasking! My 11 year old totally freaked out this morning when I discovered that he has a report due tomorrow that he hasn't started on! I had him read that section, and we talked through what micro-tasking is (I used doing laundry as an example--sort laundry, put load in washer, etc.) He has finally calmed down, and we made a list of micro-tasks that he needs to do. He was especially excited that he could take a break after a task or two! :)

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