A peak into my world and 5 tips for singular focus when it counts
I was in my kitchen today after a full on day working, from my home office, the house was a buzz with activity, I had already dropped miss 8 at her dance lesson and offered to watch my 12-week old granddaughter while her mum ran an errand. It was 5pm….I was running bath for miss 7, had mister 14 playing with miss 12 weeks while I turned the sausages, boiled the pasta, put mountains of washing away….as I paused to turn another sausage It occurred to me that in this situation MULTITASKING is a skill to die for, one I am proud of, a skill that is USEFUL….as long as I stay focused….boy was I focussed.
PHEW are you exhausted just reading this!? In my domestic life multitasking is useful in most cases, I can get a lot done in a short period of time and usually without dropping ‘any balls’ from my juggle, possibly because many of the tasks are routine, don’t require much detailed thinking or focus. I can even add in a conversation with a husband or a child to the above and be quite engaged.
When multitasking is NOT useful – when tasks require more focus, more concentration and detail.
I learned a long time ago, multitasking like this doesn’t belong at work….almost EVER. In the work I do I have multiple roles, many ‘seasons’ in any one day, things are complex, strategic, and involve singular focus.
I have learned the importance of planning my work time, having lists, prioritising those lists, using ONE diary system that works well for me on all levels, and working in SPRINTS. My sustained sprint time is around 45 – 60 mins. If a task will take longer than that I will sometimes extend this time but usually will come back to the task after a break.
I get up…. stop what I am doing get a drink and move my body. Then I can re focus again.
Working like this I get very productive, less stuff falls through cracks. Jobs get finished
I call this sharpening my AXE, a woodcutter will be more successful if he stops to sharpen his axe than the one who keeps hacking away with a blunt tool. Based on an old story I heard years ago.
My tips for singular focus and single tasking at work
- Plan your day – know what tasks, calls and emails you HAVE to get done that day, everything else is a bonus, if you have work that you get interrupted by phone calls, take small phone breaks where you put it on silent, switch if off or leave it in another room for a short period, NO ONE WILL DIE if they can’t get hold of you in a particular moment.
- Use time chunking, chunk blocks of time in your diary to do a task or a bunch of tasks.
- Work in healthy sprints, set a timer and focus on that ONE task for that time period when the timer goes off you stand up, walk away even just for 5 mins, get a drink, some food if you need and then come back re set the timer again.
- Plan NOT to multi-task, this means having only relevant tabs open, leaving social media, emails or other distracting tabs closed and notifications OFF
- Learn to be assertive (this is not the same as aggressive) try to say things like “sorry I will have to get back to you I am in the middle of something” and do just that, don’t allow people to steal your time with their emergencies unless you are completely responsible or someone will be injured. Find your own nice way to stay assertive
Either you run your day or your day runs you, is a favourite quote of mine and also is true for people and time – either you manage your time or have other people manage it according to their needs.
By all means be flexible when needed, but set boundaries, set work time, be assertive and learn to know when multitasking is useful and when it’s not.
Here’s to your singular focus