We've all heard the term ‘multi-tasking’. And, to some extent, many of us do it every day. We want to accomplish as much as possible in a set amount of time. But, according to experts, multi-tasking actually hurts our productivity! And, if you think about it, you'll probably realize they're right. In this article, I am going to give you an example of typical multitask activities, explain why they are actually preventing you from getting more done, and then give you some examples of how to change to ‘single-tasking’.
Example of real life
You have an article you want to write, and on your marketing calendar, today is the day you have allotted two hours to begin that task. You start out great! It's the very first thing you do in your day. But then you decide you should quickly check your email, and then the phone rings. Then you receive another call from a potential client, and since you have an opening tomorrow, you schedule that person and realize that suddenly that should take priority over your article.
You completed one paragraph of your article and your two hours are now gone.
You didn't complete your original task because you checked email and answered the phone during the allotted time for article-writing. How can you prevent this from happening the next time you have allotted time for article writing?
Ah, yea, that famous, 21st Century ‘time zap'! There are several strategies to prevent email from taking away from your productivity:
1. Set aside a particular time to check email. And make SURE you don't have your email program on at any other time, so you're not tempted to ‘just quickly see what's new’. What if you are still checking and your time is up, you ask?
2. This brings up the second strategy: Scan all of your email in your inbox, delete what is junk, file what you might want to read later, and determine which ones must be addressed right now. Then if you run out of time, at least you have attended to the most important items.
3. Most email programs have a filter system where you can have certain emails, such as listserv or newsletter emails, go into their own, respective folders. Then they don't clutter up your main inbox and waste your time, that you may not have much of that day. On days when the email in your inbox is light, and you have read through all the essential email and have a few minutes, THEN you can go into these folders and catch up! You can even create a folder where you put ‘read next’ items, so you don't have to later scroll through your inbox to recall that email that didn't need immediate attention but you DID want to come back to.
There are multiple solutions to phone calls, but the most simple is to have a comprehensive message on your answering machine and be sure to always call people back within 24 hours. If necessary, turn the ringer off so you don't get tempted to answer. If you're not comfortable with people calling and having to leave a message, you can hire an answering service or assistant to answer for you during certain hours of the day or certain days of the week. This can be another big time zap that takes you off your productive stride.
Speaking of phone calls, we should address that potential client phone call above and when you realistically can schedule to see them. One of the hardest things for some business professionals to do is turn away clients, or they are afraid that if they don't get them in immediately, the person will change his or her mind. However, how does that fit with YOUR success? AND, what does that tell the potential new client if you can see them so quickly? It is worthwhile to determine in advance just how much preparation time is necessary for each new client and then plan accordingly. And, using the information above, this person called you while you were working on your article, so you can determine some day and time options before you call him/her back.
The above scenario probably sounds familiar to everyone. But these are just two issues that zap our time. If you have too many things on your plate, you may also find yourself running ragged and not getting much done. So make sure you stop and spend some time not only prioritizing, but also planning. As you may have noticed, I mentioned the marketing calendar above. The marketing calendar is an excellent tool to help you set into action the steps you created in your marketing plan, which outlined how you will achieve the business objectives you set up in your business plan. In order to create a successful business, you must first plan your long-term goals, then your short-term (weekly and daily) goals, and then create the time-management strategies to help you accomplish them in the course of your days and weeks. These steps will ensure that you are checking off each of your projects that will lead to business success.
Marjorie Geiser is a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer, life coach, and MBA student. Marjorie has been the owner of a successful business since 1996, and now helps other professionals start up or grow their own business through MEG Enterprises, Inc. Her book, “Just Jump: The No-Fear Start-up Guide for Health and Fitness Professionals" is available from http://www.californiabasedpublishing.com To learn more about the services Margie offers, go to her website at http://www.meg-enterprises.com or email her at email@example.com