There is a reason, each worker on an assembly line does only one task. By having each person do only one thing, the number of workplace accidents falls significantly. This is because having only one task allows a worker to build expertise and gives them focus. It’s actually easier to work when you have only one job.
Every few months, I come across someone who claims they are very good at multitasking. Despite the latest Scientific research proving conclusively that multitasking is a myth, there are still a lot of people who believe they are good at it. Even worse, I have seen job adverts that list ability to multitask as a required skillset.
A friend reached out on whatsapp to ask how he was supposed to find one hour each day for deep focus on an important task. He is a busy man who felt all his time was already taken. Amused, I asked if he was willing to do an exercise that would help him identify how many free hours he had in a week.
How do you achieve great results on the Important but not urgent tasks? You create time for Deep focus. I first encountered the concept of Deep focus in the aptly named book Deep Focus: Rules for focused success in a distracted world by Cal Newport. If you haven’t read it, I’d recommend adding it to your reading list.
The idea behind deep focus is an individual will get more done in a single hour of focus-driven work on a single task than they would in ten hours of shallow focus split across different tasks. If you want to get more done, you not only need to first create time for it, you also need to make sure that time is quiet and focused time.
We all have things we’d like to do. So many in fact that I always recommend writing them down in a to-do list. A well-designed to-do list not only lets you capture all the vague tasks you’d like to do at some point, it also lets you prioritise what to work on now and what can wait.
One of the most powerful productivity illustrations is called an Eisenhower matrix. I have talked about it in previous posts but I will provide a sample under here in case you aren’t familiar with the matrix.
At some point, a lot of people have tried to build a new habit such as exercising more often, eating healthier food or reading more books. They had good intentions. They wanted to improve themselves and by so doing change their lives. After a few days of going to the gym or eating vegetables for lunch, they gradually slipped back into their old lifestyles. They might feel guilty about this but eventually convince themselves they gave it their best shot. Maybe they just aren’t the reading type. What went wrong? Instead of taking small steps, the people in our example wanted to take a giant leap.
Building a new habit isn’t easy. When you start to build a new habit, you are making a commitment to change the trajectory of your life. Naturally, you will face resistance. Old habits die hard. If you eat six chocolate bars and a cake each day, your mind will rebel if you switch to a vegetable only healthy diet the next day. You have spent years reinforcing your old habits. You will need patience to discard them in favour of a new one.
How much progress have you made towards your personal development plan for the year? Did you complete your tasks for the week? If you can answer these questions without having to do some digging, congratulations you are ahead of most people already.
Many people make lists. New years’ resolutions are an often joked about list. They represent a classic example of what happens to most lists. People write them down, then forget about them. The act of writing down what you intend to do has been shown to increase the likelihood of achieving that thing. However, if you really want to get more done, you will have to make sure your lists are living documents.
Since I began publishing this blog, I have had quite a few conversations about personal productivity. I have had the opportunity to listen to people talk about their productivity challenges. Occasionally, I have also heard how someone applied something they read on my blog and how it helped them in their lives. Through all this, I have kept wondering why do people struggle to be more productive.
I have a friend who loves coffee. Her first whatsapp Status update every morning is about coffee. As a tea lover, I often tease her about her coffee drinking habits. This post is not going to be about the health benefits or otherwise of coffee. I am also not going to ask you to stop drinking coffee. You’re old enough to know what you should or shouldn’t be drinking.
Instead, I will use coffee to make a point. I want you to ask yourself two questions:
The greatest disservice our love for quick soundbites has done is create the illusion that people who reach the top of their game did so within a very short period of time. We get to see pictures of Olympic athletes as they cross the finish line. What we don’t see is the years prior to that where they trained their body to peak performance. If an athlete has their golden moment when all the cameras go off. It’s because they had the patience to do what many will not.
When did you last feel angry at work? Perhaps it was at a colleague who wasn’t doing their share of the team project. Or your boss for being unfair to you? Did you miss out on an expected emotion? Or a vendor who wouldn’t accept responsibility for a poorly delivered service riled you up? It might have been a subordinate who should know better but never does?
Anger is a necessary human emotion. One that should not be repressed. Yet, you can’t allow your anger to define how you react to situations. If you throw a mug of hot tea at a co-worker or throw the vendor out the window, you could get in plenty of trouble that could damage your career. It’s even more important to control how you direct anger towards subordinates. No one likes to work for a boss who publicly humiliates them and disrespects them at the slightest opportunity.