Don’t multitask. Seriously, don’t do it. Multitasking lowers efficiency. Multitasking is a way to feel busy, while wasting precious minutes. In the words of Ron Swanson, “Never half-ass two things, whole ass one thing.” Work on one thing until you’re done. If you’re not making progress, stop, take a break, and come back to it later. Recognize distractions and eliminate them. Do one thing at a time, really well, with all of your energy.
Think of time as a resource (a la Anne Hathaway in Interstellar) just like money, health, or anything else. Every day, you’re given buckets of time that slowly leak out. There’s nothing you can do to stop it. However, before the time leaks out of your buckets, you can scoop it out into other containers like school, family, hobbies, or business. You can capture time and preserve it. Think of it as an investment. How do you consistently make the right choices with the time that you have? Set up good habits.
In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg writes that habits are choices that you continue doing repeatedly without actually thinking about them. We’re literally pre-programmed to be habitual machines. If you understand how habits work, you can take advantage of them and multiply your productivity. When thinking about this, I’m reminded of the classic question: “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer of course, is “One bite at a time.”
Once you’re already doing something – adding additional agenda items is easy. It’s just more bite-sized pieces. Lucille Ball said “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” It’s not because they’re good at multitasking, it’s because they’re good at breaking problems down. Momentum is very powerful. It makes me think of a freight train. Train engines don’t start out by pulling 100 cars all at once. If you’ve ever seen a train start up, it slowly takes off from a stop and with a loud ‘THUNK’ pulls one car, strains under the weight, then builds up speed again, takes the slack out, and pulls the second car. This process repeats over and over again until a single train engine is pulling all of the cars. Momentum is a powerful thing. If you build up momentum in your life, adding individual items won’t seem so bad. The train has to know where it’s going and what it’s pulling, however. This is why goals are important.
If you want to be productive, then set goals. Have a plan. Follow plan. Evaluate. Repeat. You don’t have to follow the plan exactly, just have one. Keep a calendar – Siri, Alexa, Google, anything.
Lastly, make sure to set aside free time. Take care of yourself and your mental health. Recognize the signs of burnout and take steps to protect yourself.
In summary, have a plan. Always be present in the moment. Execute the plan.