It’s Time To Kill Multi-Tasking

What’s the outlook for productive creativity in the coming year? In two phrases: Multi-tasking is dead! Long live single-minded focus!We recently pinged the 99U twitter audience for feedback on how they’re adapting their productivity regimes to be better, faster, smarter, and just generally more awesome in 2011. When the results came in, every single productivity resolution voiced seemed to relate to the rejection of multi-tasking.There were three overarching themes:

1. Getting aggressive with time management.

With email, Facebook, Twitter, etc ready and willing to absorb as much attention and effort as we give them, a growing number of entrepreneurs and creatives are employing a variety of techniques to more aggressively manage their time and attention. A few ideas we heard:

  • Employing Momento to track “resistance” moments. Momento is a simple, well-designed iPhone app that allows you to keep a diary on the go. We love the idea of using Momento to catalogue instances when the Resistance – the evil force that keeps us from making ideas happen – rears its ugly head.
  • Using the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique is like interval training for your attention span. Using the technique, you focus on One Single Task for 25 minutes. Then, you get a 5-minute break to stretch, indulge in Twitter, check your email, or whatever else.
  • Doing the hard, creative work first. Whether it’s waking up two hours earlier than normal and writing, or devoting the morning to the core research that will grow your business, we’re seeing an adjustment in priorities. People are trying to focus on meaningful work first, before they turn their attention to email, voicemail, social media, etc.
People are trying to focus on meaningful work first.

2. Disconnecting during creative/deep-thinking time.

Real creative problem-solving requires concerted focus. As they work to carve out blocks of time for deep thinking, people are also finding it necessary to unplug from the Internet. It’s all well and good to say you’re not going to check your email, but if you’re getting a notification every time a new message comes in, ignoring the chatter can be difficult. Some approaches to disconnecting:
  • Living in “airplane mode.” For the uninitiated, setting your phone to “airplane mode” disables phone calls, text messaging, wi-fi, Bluetooth, and GPS functionality.
  • Using an app to control Internet usage. The number of apps that will prevent you from accessing the Internet – or select sites of your choosing – is growing everyday. The two most popular apps are Freedom and Self-Control.
  • Turning off phones and computers outside of work. When they wake up in the morning, during lunch breaks, in the evening at home, etc. Everyone is experimenting with ways to “disconnect” and recharge when they’re away from their desks.
Everyone is experimenting with ways to ‘disconnect’ and recharge when they’re away from their desks.

3. Choosing between the digital and the analog…

Each time a new technology comes online, we’re inclined to think it’s the answer to all our problems. (“Now that we have this client intranet, we’ll never have to talk to them again!”) Currently, we’re settling into the realities and limitations of emailing on the go, sharing our every moment online, and so forth.As people begin to reassess the pros and cons of digital communication, they’re gaining a renewed appreciation for face-to-face conversations, phone calls, and personal interactions that don’t require emoticons to convey tone. Sometimes an email is more efficient, sometimes a phone call is more efficient. It depends on the situation. As our communication channels expand, we’ll have more decisions to make.

What’s Your Productivity Approach?
What’s your take on multi-tasking?
Have you recently adapted your daily regime to improve your productivity?
More insights on: Disconnecting, Time Management

Jocelyn K. Glei

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A writer and the founding editor of 99U, Jocelyn K. Glei is obsessed with understanding how work gives our lives meaning. She has authored three books about work, creativity, and business, including the Amazon bestsellers Manage Your Day-to-Day and Make Your Mark. Follow her @jkglei.
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