In these harrowing times with so many demands placed on us it can be near impossible to focus on the thing in front of you. Achieving maximum performance seems so elusive.
We all have so many demands placed on us between navigating work-life challenges, to doing the work of multiple people on the job, it’s a wonder we can ever accomplish anything.
What often happens is we attempt to juggle multiple projects simultaneously as we attempt to become MULTITASKING experts as we fight a never-ending tide of distractions.
Here’s a tip to increase your efficiency and maximize your performance and productivity.
STOP TRYING TO MULTITASK! It simply isn’t feasible despite our best intentions.
Our brains are not hardwired to tackle multiple tasks simultaneously.
The area of our brains that helps us to get work done and perform the act of multitasking is called the frontal lobe. It enables us to perform “mental executive functions” or MEFs, for short.
There are TWO key aspects of MEFs to understand:
- Goal Shifting – when we decide to perform one task instead of another; and
- Role Activation – every time we switch tasks, we have to change the rules required to perform the task as we move between tasks. When we bounce back and forth between work we have to also change back and forth the rules required to perform each task.
When we focus on two tasks simultaneously, each side of the brain tackles a different task.
From productivity research conducted into the act of switching between tasks, we know that multitasking can lead to a reduction in productivity by as much as 40%.
In summary…the human brain simply isn’t built to multi-task.
But in this day in age where we have so many simultaneous requirements placed on us, we simply may be forced to multi-task as a standard mandatory behavior in order to complete everything we need to get done. If that is the situation you find yourself in, following are a few guidelines that you might be able to implement, in order to maximize your performance.
- Know your daily optimal performance peak times and minimize distractions and/or interruptions by establishing block out periods.
Set out of office email messages even while you’re IN THE OFFICE.
Use out of office messages that say you are IN THE OFFICE BUT UNDER DEADLINE and indicate when you will be available. To maximize your peak performance times, you can do so with out of office phone messages, as well.
- Discover the invaluable art and skill of DELEGATING. Some guidelines for delegating:
- Ask yourself: “What’s the BEST use of my time?” Whatever you do that is not in your productivity wheelhouse MUST be delegated.
- Stop refusing to delegate because it takes more time to explain the work involved then to do it yourself. This creates a vicious cycle of you not being able to get those recurring low value tasks off your plate.
- Can someone else do it better? You are not a TEN in everything. Choose who is best to delegate to. That goes for the home as well as work.
- Do you have enough time to delegate? Remember, there are 168 hours of the week, when you start subtracting the sleep, cooking, shores, etc. that number dwindles quickly.
- Will this task recur again? If there is any way to plan for someone else taking ownership by all means delegate away.
- Is this a task that I should delegate?
- Avoid the boomerang (No “backsies”) Do not let people come back to you for excessive help in completing tasks.
Check out this nice list of delegation tips.
- Become diligent in planning by using the PLAN – DO – REVIEW process. Set daily, weekly, quarterly and annual goals. At the end of every time period (day, week, month…etc.) revisit those goals and assess how you performed. Following is a really useful daily workflow process. (Sourced from Martin Yate.)
At the end of each and every day, review what you’ve accomplished:
- What happened: a.m. and p.m.?
- What went well? Do more of it.
- What went wrong? How do I fix it?
- What projects do I need to move forward tomorrow?
- List all tomorrow’s activities and rank the importance of each one:
– Must be completed by end of day;
– Good to be completed by end of day; and
– To be completed if there is spare time from A and B priorities.
- Make a prioritized To Do list, with every activity rated A, B, or C.
- Stick to your prioritized list as much as possible.
- Stay organized. Fight the natural tendency of all things to gravitate towards DIS-order (it’s called ENTROPY.) Plan processes, automate workflows to in effect only touch a piece of paper once. Create files to “dump” papers, articles, forms into so you can go back and re-organize/sort later. Once a month have a file purge party and throw away all files, papers, forms, not touched in the past 30 days.
Here’s to your continued success in 2016!