Emails: A productivity Death trap

First do what is important, then everything else. This could be a maxim for personal productivity. People who prioritise tasks and focus on those that yield the most results (which by definition, are important) are said to be productive. A question for you: Is responding to emails immediately an important task? According to a Mckinsey report, the average professional spends 28% of their work day reading and responding to emails. If you work 8 hours a day, that’s 2 hours dedicated to your inbox. Is that the best use of your time?

Email envelopes
There’s such a thing as too many emails
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Squeezed into action

Suppose you had a number of tasks on your to-do list but can’t seem to get started on any of them. You know these tasks are important. That’s why you wrote them down in the first place. These are tasks you can’t delegate. The responsibility for getting them done rests with you. What’s one thing you can add to your to-do list to boost your chances of getting those tasks done? A time constraint.

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Do you have an hour?

A lot of people would like to achieve more each day. They want to do things like building a new habit, starting a new project or writing a blog. Most people say they can’t find time to get started on their goals. Surprisingly, the same set of people somehow find two hours each day to watch funny videos.

People underestimate how much they could achieve in a year if they dedicated just one hour a day to work on a goal. How do productive people find time to do the things that matter?

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You can only do one thing at a time

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.

Multitasking icon
This is not possible
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Nobody works well under pressure

Working under pressure is last minute time management

We have all met someone who proudly declared they work well under pressure. The sort of people who boldly put it on their CV and expect to be rewarded for it. They are most likely the sort of people who annoy colleagues to no end by submitting work five minutes to the deadline and expect to be given a round of applause for it. You may have convinced yourself being able to work under pressure is a skill. Perhaps you also believe you possess that skill. Let me burst your bubble. It is not.

A man in a suit struggling to meet a deadline
You under pressure keeping people waiting

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Take off a few hats

Judy trying to look after six children

How many hats are you wearing right now? If you have a job, you wear an employee hat. Perhaps you also run a side hustle that employs one or two staff, in which case you also wear a boss hat for your business. You might also be married and wear a spouse hat. If you have children, you also wear a parent hat. What other duties do you perform at home? Are you the chef, the one everyone relies on to organise events or laundry?

Stress
End result of too many hats

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Multitasking won’t help you get more tasks done

A guy sitting in a yoga pose with a smile and juggling multiple tasks

I had to learn not to laugh whenever someone lists “multitasking” as a skill on their CV. For so long, we have been fed the illusion that all top performers in their fields are able to multitask and that is why they are able to achieve so much. The belief that the human brain can do two tasks of equal importance at the same time at full efficiency is so pervasive that a job seeker can be forgiven if they include that as a (dubious) skill on their CV. No one taught us better.

For the purpose of clarity, let me put this out here: multitasking is a myth. Research from Stanford University has shown that people who claim to be very good at multitasking performed terribly on memory tests over time. They experienced higher levels of stress and made more mistakes than individuals who focused on a single task at a time. The human brain is simply not hardwired to focus on two tasks at a time.

A sign that reads "Multitasking is a myth. We are serial thinkers."
This sign says it all

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