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Written by
Rafał Łukjanowicz

Rafał Łukjanowicz

Multitasking – no way

Do you also sometimes feel dissatisfied with yourself? Do you get that feeling that you start more things than you finish? Have you ever thought about why that is and if something can be done about it? If so, I hope you’ll read on and catch a couple of things that really should help.

I’ve been just the kind of person described above. I’m ashamed to admit that I still am from time to time. Right now I’m fighting with it and I see that I’m slowly climbing out of that “rut”.

A pile of tasks, many of them started and even more still unfinished. I’ve promised something to somebody and started work on it; however, through a spate of new work, I’m left with a load of things to do in an unacceptable amount of time. Moreover, this means switching between doubts and fears. Of course, I just have to learn to live with it as best I can 😉 I’ve felt that something is running away through my fingers and that the main cause has been multitasking.

I’m sure you’ll say “Sure, of course. On every training course they tell me to do each task in order, from start to the bitter end”. I’ve heard that too – more than once. It’s easy to say but tough to achieve. Often in initiations, training courses and coaching sessions they don’t give concrete examples of how to adjust to truly doing one thing at a time and focusing solely on that task. I’ll outline here a couple of ways which other have given me.

First off, get rid of all disturbances. “And what are they?” I hear you ask. It means everything that can turn your attention away from the task in hand. You can count in that: pop up windows, communicators, applications open on your computer, automatically updating mail, and so on and so forth. What I suggest is:

  • Turn off all communication tools. Eliminate all noise, pop ups and flashing windows which will only take your attention away from what you are doing. If someone has a truly important task for you, they will certainly come to you in person. Everything else can wait.
  • Turn off your email. If you need it to complete some task, turn off the internet or switch over to reading your mail in off-line mode. If neither of these are possible (because, for example, the program does not have such an option or you need access to the net), save all essential mails beforehand and then turn off the application. Thanks to this, you will not be continually curious about what new mails are being received and you’ll not be attacked my reminders and the like.
  • Only have programs open on your computer that are essential to you. If you need a web browser open to complete your given task, close all tabs that are not related to the matter in hand. You certainly don’t need up-to-date information about the weather or how the situation is panning out in Korea 😉 The most important thing is to focused on the task in front of you.
  • Turn off or silence your telephone. Nobody and nothing should disturb what you are doing. You may think “No way. I need to be in constant contact.” I’ll tell you for nothing that simply isn’t true. The world will not stop spinning if you miss one phone call. It’s the 21st century and you know who has called you. You can always call back later. “And what about landlines?” you ask. Well, here is a simple but effective idea – disconnect it J or use the magic DnD button J if it is available.
  • Close the door to the room. If your attention is not caught by people passing by in the corridor, that is for the best.
  • Cut yourself off from external sounds. Put on headphones to separate yourself from those outside noises and allow yourself to concentrate on the task. What works for me is the sound of the ocean 🙂 (My zodiac sign is Aquarius;)). You might find other sounds of nature work for you, or simple music which allows you to concentrate. All you have to do is enter www.youtube.com and you’ll certainly find something what suits you (I search for things like “sea sound effects” or “chill out music” :)).

 

Second up, tidy up your workplace.

It’s nothing more than cleaning up your desk. Just take away everything that is not related to the specific task you are working on and hide them somewhere – in a backpack, in a box or in the shredder 😉

Try not to keep you ‘post-it’ notes somewhere where they are visible while you work. Don’t stick them on your monitor, computer, phone, etc. Only things you need for your task in hand should be on your desk. Nothing else should be enticing you.

Something else you should have about your person (or nearby), is something to drink. I usually have a coffee or tea, but I also suggest having a bottle of mineral water nearby as coffee can dehydrate you a little and a hydrated mind works all the better 🙂

And this, for example, is how my desk looks when I am working on a task such as those described above:

Blog-photo

You’ll certainly notice two main things on this picture: the ‘post-it notes that I spoke about before and said should not be stuck in visible places, as well as the large white writing pad.

I’ll placate you about the notes. One of them has my own internal number written on it (so that I know what it is when I need to give it out) and the other is a little message for the cleaner asking her not to mess with my phone (which happened a few times recently ;))

The large white pad (albeit one that is already scribbled on a little), I’ll return to later as it may prove useful.

The third piece of advice is to work in blocks of time.

In my case these blocks are of about 40min and one hour. What does that mean? It means that I try to work continuously on one task for a maximum of 40min to one hour. After that I have to get up from the desk, straighten out my bones a little and take care of fluids 🙂 It’s also the time (although some don’t recommend it) in which you can spend ten minutes with your inbox, checking your most important mails, and so on. You must, however, remember that you are engaged in a task and after ten minutes you’ll have to shut down the inbox and get back to it 🙂 Some suggest measuring your time blocks by using a simple kitchen timer or a special application which supports such a method of work but, in my case, all I need is a clock to glance at from time to time J

Last of all, and thus fourthly, prepare a writing pad.

Although you’ll be working on one task, it is possible that some idea will come into your head regarding another matter or you’ll be reminded of something else that needs doing. Don’t do it straight away. Write down a keyword on the pad and return to your task so that you don’t forget but will also be able to take care of it in your break or straight after completing the task upon which you are concentrating. Thanks to that, nothing will slip your mind or swallow you up.

You may think that all of these things are relatively radical. I’ll say it like this: yes, they may seem that way and some of them are, indeed, quite radical. But remember that you don’t have to take them all on board straight away (although you’ll see the most spectacular effect if you do) and some exceptions are bound to occur. I’d just like to convince you to try. And don’t worry that you won’t be constantly using your email or that you will be unavailable to co-workers and friends for some time. Trust me, the world will not fall to pieces because of that. I also found that out (even though I thought differently at first :)). And, thanks to that, I not only start and finish more things, I’m also more satisfied with myself. After all, that is what this whole thing has been about since the beginning.

I earnestly encourage you to comment on this post. What do you do to eliminate multitasking? What methods do you have? Or perhaps you have another problem in this area? Share it with others and it is possible that someone will give you an idea that will be the solution or significantly reduce your troubles.

In the next episode… “How not to put it off until later”

All the best,

Rafal

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