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The Lie Of Multitasking And Why You Need To Stop

In a time where everyone is rushing around at supersonic speed to get things done, trying to be more productive and achieve our goals.

We all believe that multitasking is something we must do on order to achieve more and get the most out of our time.

When you ask people how they’ve been the stock answer seems to be “Yeah I’ve just been busy…”

What does that even mean? Like being busy is a good thing right?

Wrong.

The word productivity is all around us:

“How to increase your productivity”

“This tool will sky rocket your productivity”

“Productivity hacking with this new technique”

Don’t get me wrong, being busy can be a good thing IF you’re being productive. The trouble I see is that most people have the perception of being busy because they are multitasking.

The question is…should you really be multitasking?

In this post we will cover:

  • The power of developing positive habits
  • The one problem with creating multiple task lists
  • ​The real truth about multitasking
  • My time tracking ephinany
  • What it takes to achieve trye focus

More...

What It All Looks Like For Me

As you may have seen from this blog, I have a number of projects I am working on, some large, some small.

However one thing they all have in common is that they take up a portion of my time AND they demand my focus.

Some of the projects I am working on include

So that’s 7 main projects and I am probably leaving out several smaller ones where they are in idea/development stage or I have simply parked them as my brain cannot process it all…!

One way I combat the brain overload is to write my tasks down…

Task Lists

The thing with having several projects is that no matter how big or small, each and every one of them have tasks that need to be completed.

So, I create a task list and have one list for each project.

I manage these tasks using my Trello system and this helps me to make some kind of sense of it all.

The main downside to having all of your tasks in one location so they are easy to see is

OVERLOAD.

Quite often I find myself jumping from one task to another, often across multiple projects in such a short amount of time.

This leaves me feeling far less focused on the task at hand, as I am already queuing up the next task in my mind.

To combat this I have been in the lab testing what works that best and here’s what I came up with.

Choosing Your ONE Thing

In order for you to eliminate all the noise and find that true focus, you must decide which task or project is the most important.

This is where most (including myself) struggle.

They are all a priority right?

Wrong.

There is always a way to prioritise, it just takes a little forethought. Here’s some options you have:

  • Which is most time pressing? I.e what is the deadline on each task?
  • Are other people reliant on you delivering this task?
  • What value can be associated to completing the task?
  • How long will each task take and what do you have time for right now?

Those 4 simple questions can help you to peg your tasks and projects into some kind of logical order based on time, value and type.

Try this with your own list and let me know how you get on.

The ONE Thing is not an idea I came up with by myself unfortunately.

This book from Gary Keller is the best book I have read in 2014 and I’ve read quite a few.

It’s quite simple really.

What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

Sounds like a mouthful I know, however in the book Gary does a great job of applying this above statement to all walks of life and business.

He shares examples of the excuses people make to not prioritise and split their focus over multiple things (multitasking!)

As a direct result of reading this book, I estimate that my productivity has at least doubled. I still have a way to go, but my mind is on the right track and I believe you can achieve the same.

Give it a read, its a quick read at just 240 pages long and I completed it in two sittings.

Multitasking vs. Single Focus

To put it simply, multitasking as a productivity tool is a lie.

Not only does multitasking make our work 50% less valuable; it takes 50% longer to finish

Think about it, each day our bodies and minds are granted a finite amount of time, energy and focus.

What we are really doing by multitasking is dividing that limited resource and spreading it so thinly that you will quite often see:

  • Tasks take much longer then they should so
  • Task will not get completed
  • You will make more mistakes
  • You will push back those difficult tasks in favour of easy wins

I am sure you have experienced at least one of those 4 examples above, especially as multitasking is what all great entrepreneurs do…isn’t it?

Nope.

The interesting one for me is the last item in that list:

You will push back those difficult tasks in favour of easy wins

Easy wins come in all shapes and sizes, essentially they are quick and simple to complete tasks that take little time, energy and focus.

Subconsciously your body knows its focus and energy resources are finite, so you allow yourself to rack up a few easy wins, check email, check Facebook and send a few Skype PM’s.

This is what I call “the busy work”, the stuff that makes it feel like you are getting things done, when in reality you’re getting nowhere fast.

The kind of stuff that makes people say “Yeah I’ve been busy…”

Developing Positive Habits (‘The Routine’)”

My friend Doug from Niche Site Project recently published a post where he talks about his morning routine.

We’ve spoken about this on a number of occasions in our Mastermind Group sessions and we are both always looking to improve ourselves and our businesses.

This generally involves trying out new techniques to eek out yet more from our workdays.

We both have full time jobs and an extra half an hour per day can make the world of difference in the long run.

Doug already covered the steps you can follow if you’re looking for more focused time to commit to building your online business. You can check his great post out here.

MY MORNING ROUTINE

  • Wake up at 5am
  • Feed Otis my dog
  • Drink a pint of water
  • 5 minute meditation
  • Write 1,000 word of content

I have been following this routine for a couple of weeks now and can say I felt an immediate improvement in my mindset and output/focus.

Here’s why:

Waking up at 5:30am

This is just an hour earlier than I used to wake, however it makes me feel like I am literally stealing an extra hour per day to get stuff done.

Over the course of the week that will give me 7 additional hours to work on my business.

Over the course of the year that’s over 15 days extra to grow my business.

Of course that does mean getting up at the same time on a weekend, however I used to get up at around 8am on a Saturday & Sunday, so getting up at 7am actually feels like I have still had a nice lie in.

One more benefit to waking up earlier is the buzz I get from the feeling of getting one over on the competition.

It’s like I have already done an hour’s work and wrote 1,000 words before they have even gotten out of bed! I love it.

Feeding My Dog

This was already a part of my routine, I just didn’t realise it.

You see dogs love routine, so from him being a 10 week old puppy to this very day (he’s 2 now) we have done the same thing each and every morning.

Implementing this was easy as this was already a part of what I do every morning, but now I know why I do it!

Drinking a pint of water

This is also something I have done for a very long time upon waking.

I follow a Paleo lifestyle 80% of the time and one of the key things I picked up on immediately, is that after sleeping your body is actually dehydrated as you have not taken on any fluids throughout the night.

To rehydrate the first thing you should do before eating or drinking anything else is drink a glass of water.

Even before your morning coffee fix, coffee is a diuretic, meaning it actually dehydrates you more.

Don’t get me started on the cereal…if you want to find out more about Paleo, check this out.

The 5 Minute Meditation

This is a funny one as I used to think meditation was all hippy BS and just couldn’t buy into it.

Then about a year ago my friend Adam sent me a video that explains it in terms I could relate too.

So after a few months of off and on attempts I admitted I could see the benefits…but who had the time to waste on meditation?

In fact I don’t even call it meditation, for me it’s just slowing down and focusing on your breathing. Sitting for 5 minutes each morning clears my head and sets me up for the day.

One of the benefits I attribute to this personally are a better outlook on the day in general, feeling less stressed about what I have to get done that day and the awareness of how my mind and body function better when I slow it all down and just breath.

Check out this from Zen Habits if you are interested – http://zenhabits.net/meditate/

Writing 1,000 words

Doing this each morning as part of my routine has been the biggest kick starter to my increased productivity.

If truth be told I am not or was not a big fan of writing. I was used to hiring writers for my niche sites and often struggled to sit down and knock out my own content.

This blog was different as I am talking about topics that really interest me and I have a lot to share, therefore it’s never been a problem…but even then I had no set schedule.

Implementing this as the final step in my routine means I end on a high after bashing out 1,000+ words.

Another upside is that my mind is stimulated and by the time I have finished I am fully awake and ready to tackle my ONE Thing.

Time Tracking Ephiphany

As you go through your workday, especially for those of you that work alone, will find that life is full of distractions.

These distractions however as disguised as business applications.

After a particularly “busy week” I decided to install a time tracking application called Rescuetime.

This app tracks each application you use and also which browser windows you have in focus. It then records the amount of time spent on each one.

WARNING: The results may offend you!

Here’s mine for last week;

Rescuetime Dashboard

So on top of my 40 hours per week day job, I also racked up 36 hours on my online endeavours.

What’s worse is the applications/websites that took up most of my time:

MY BIGGEST TIME SUCKS

  • Skype - 4hrs 21mins
  • The Mastery - 3hrs 21mins
  • ​Gmail - 3hrs 6mins
  • ​Authority Website - 2hrs 1min
  • Cloud Income - 1hr 52mins

As you can see, Skype and Gmail hold 1st and 3rd place in this list of things that took up most of my time in that week.

Granted we were launching The Mastery, so using Skype for calls and quick message was essential as was Gmail for longer comms and working with the developers.

It still brings a hard hitting message and further reaffirms my overall message of “busy work”.

So Far So Good

I’ve been using Rescuetime for a few weeks and it really has helped to nudge up my focus and be more productive!

One tip if you decide to use this free app – make a bet with a friend – make sure it’s a decent value bet and see who can have the most productive week.

Now you CAN assign websites such as Facebook and Reddit into a productive category, so just make sure he/she has not put anything in that category that doesn’t belong!

The Time It Takes To Regain Focus

It takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task you were working on after a distraction breaks your focus.

What’s more, a study by Sapience Analytics have also shown that we are distracted on average every 11 minutes.

So if you are distracted and it takes you around 23 minutes to regain full focus before you are distracted again, this gives us just 14 minutes of total focus per hour.

Doesn’t seem right does it?

There are however things you can do to limit the number of interruptions you experience.

How To Avoid Distractions?

1) Turn off all distractions – Email, Skype, Facebook, iPhone

2) Turn off pop up/push notifications – Each time you get a popup you lose focus. Sure you may only divert your eyes for a fraction of a second, but that is all it takes to lose that focus.

3) Get a quiet room – No music, no TV – Ever tried having the TV on in the same room you are working? nightmare right? Turn it off or move to another room

4) Using a site blocker – block your frequently visited time killing sites such as Facebook, your RSS blog reader and Reddit.

5) Monitor Notes – I love this one. Simple yet effective. leave a sticky note on your monitor that has your ONE thing written down.

6) Distraction free writing in WordPress – this is my go-to each morning when I’m writing my 1,000 words, no formatting, no other windows, just getting it done.

Conclusion

I hope I have given you reason for thought in the about post and would like to leave you with one thought;

Instead of just being busy, take the time to monitor your work habits and get a true reflection of exactly how you’re spending your time.

You will probably find at least a few things that you can drop, tweak or improve that will grab back those precious hours we need each day.

Since when did “being busy” become a good thing?

I don’t know about you but I do this so I can be less busy, have more free time to do the things I truly want to do in life.

Don't be busy, be productive. Stop Multitasking.

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Lewis Ogden
 

Lewis was able to take his hobby of building websites and turn it into a blueprint that enables him to build, rank and profit from niche websites. As a result of his niche site success, he now makes a full-time 5-figure income and even managed to quit his 9-5 job back in early 2015 all driven by his knowledge that he shares here on this blog.

Joe - December 5, 2014

Getting up at 5am is great. I do it every now and then for a few days in a row but can never get to sleep early enough to really make it work.

But you are right, there is nothing like the feeling of completing some work before the day is really started.

I’ve just started the paleo diet too, although I’m following more of a bulletproof version as I’m eating butter.

Cheers,
Joe

    Lewis Ogden - December 7, 2014

    Hey Joe, good luck with Paleo, i follow it 80%, I prefer a mix and have found what works well for me. Butter and Coconut oil are my fats of choice for cooking.

    No wheat or milk work for me too!

    I find the getting up early works well with this kind of lifestyle as my energy levels remain pretty consistent without the ups and downs you have from eating processed foods.

Arp - December 5, 2014

I’ve been thinking about the meditation in the morning thing – do you have that video your friend send you handy?

Lee - December 7, 2014

Mind over mattress , great way to start day. I really struggle with focus, too many distractions, great post

    Lewis Ogden - December 8, 2014

    Thanks Lee, I find the first week or so the hardest to deal with…after that your body kind of gets used to it!

Doug cunnington - December 8, 2014

Thanks for the shout out, @cloudincome:disqus! It looks like we have the same routine & schedule.

It’s crazy how you can get used to waking up so early. Now it just feels normal, and I feel lazy if I sleep in without a good reason.

I have gotten less strict with my early alarm time when I realize that I need some extra sleep. You know how it is…sometimes you have to be social and spend time with your friends and family in the evenings. 🙂

    Lewis Ogden - December 9, 2014

    Yeah I really enjoyed reading your article and it made me want to share my own routine!

    Yeah its funny that feeling of guilt that you get, but in reality you know your doing way better than before you started getting up early and just getting sh*t done!

Raweewan M. - December 9, 2014

Hi Lewis, great post! Today is first day that I wake up early and workout for 45 mins before go to office. It’s great to wake up early. 🙂

    Lewis Ogden - December 9, 2014

    Hey I hope it worked out well for you, do you plan on making this a routine?

Goran Gligorin - December 9, 2014

At my job (which I quit a few weeks ago) I work in customer support as a software developer. That was a nightmare for me. It forced me to multitask while demanding me to finish my tasks rapidly. I hated it. Luckily I was then put on a project where I worked on a single thing for almost 4 months. It was just my thing. I was tasked with data migration. This is where I found the importance of the ONE thing (although I just now realized that’s what it was). Each time I ran the migration for testing, I ended up with a list of errors. I simply grouped those and the frequency of occurrence was essentially my priority. Working in this way was incredibly productive as well it made the customer happy as every time I solved an error, the percentage of errors was greatly decreased. Using this also made it easier to put in more time.

I still had a lot of problems switching between my job mindset and my business once I came home from work. The only solution was to try to my it on my own. So I saved up a bit, quit my job, and am now happily dedicating my whole time to my business.

My system now is to have a single list of tasks I have to do and the task that’s at the top is the one I’m focusing on. If I just have an idea I’d like to write down, I put it at the bottom of the list, so I don’t have to worry about remembering it. I also make sure I go through my list on Sundays and see if anything should be rearranged. I’m still fine tuning the whole process, though.

Sorry for the long post, but you got me really excited and gave me a few ideas on how to improve my own system.

Cheers,
Goran @ NicheCove.com

    Lewis Ogden - December 9, 2014

    Hey Goran thanks for sharing man!

    It’s great to hear what’s working for other people and congrats on quitting the job man I wish you the best of luck with your business!

      Goran Gligorin - December 10, 2014

      Yep, I too like to know what works for people, but it’s important to adapt it to yourself. Exact approaches rarely work for everyone.

      I did remember one more trick I use. It helps me get back to the frame of mind I was in when I stopped working on something that requires focus. Either I had to go to bed, grab lunch, etc. I write a little note to myself telling me what is the first thing I was going to do if I didn’t have to stop. It’s usually a few lines on a small post-it note. I then read that when I get back to doing what I was doing and it’s almost like I never left. You get the hang of what you have to write, so it works best, but even a badly written note works better than just trying to remember it. I’ve lately started doing this even if I finished what I was doing. I just write down the next thing I have to do.

        Lewis Ogden - December 12, 2014

        I use a similar technique where I leave the document/browser tab/email I was working on as the only window visible when I open my laptop.

        This reminds me what I was working on and allows me to just straight into it.

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