We mentioned last time that expert time-managers advise people against multi-tasking.
Along with it’s inevitable interruptions, multi-tasking causes adverse psychological and physiological effects, according to the
research we mentioned. So why do we do it? Probably, on the surface at least, multi-tasking seems to be a solution to the everyday problems of unclear objectives and confused priorities.
What has also come to light in recent years is that the brain actually uses up a huge amount of energy (glucose) just in the act of trying to prioritize. It’s part of the reason most of us find prioritizing one of the toughest things to do.
How many people do you know who come into work first thing in the morning and immediately open their e-mail – and spend the rest of their day with e-mail open, reading every e-mail that comes in – no matter what else they’re in the middle of?
When we ask people ‘how many of the e-mails you receive are to do with your own priorities?’, we’ve had answers as low as 20%. Yet people sit, awaiting they’re next e-mail interruption which they’re 80% certain is not a priority they should immediately attend to. (Did you know 39% of e-mail is sent to people sitting less than 100 metres away?). When we ask ‘why do you do it?’ the answer is often simply ‘habit’.
We’ve noticed that two activities can have an amazing effect on people’s energy, focus and ability to prioritize.
1. One is to NOT open e-mail for the first hour of the morning. (Whether you believe you should or shouldn’t do it, it’s helpful to know that reading e-mail uses up a lot of your available ‘prioritizing’ energy. Energy that you have a limited daily supply of). Simply work on your existing priority items as the first thing you do.
2. The second is to only do your e-mail in batches of a half-hour or so per sitting. Decide to open, receive and process your e-mail only at these set times during a day. Your type of job would dictate whether it’s twice or three or four ‘batches’ (or more) a day. But the point is to close your e-mail and then focus on completing what you have decided are your key priorities. Only process e-mails during the set batch times you’ve chosen.
In both cases we’ve found peoples’ completion rate soars, along with the good feeling of a more rewarding day.
We’ve mentioned only two activities. We’d be pleased to hear of others that work as well.
Ron Hopkins PEPworldwide UK
Johan Chr. Holst, PEPww Norway, Redaktør
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