Let’s get right to the brass tacks, shall we? You want to get more done. You have clients or bosses to appease, and a list longer than your arm just waiting to be conquered. If you can get everything done, you win: the client will pay you money, your boss will let you keep your job, or your partner will let you sleep in bed rather than on the couch.
And so, like most people, you want to get more done. I know the feeling all too well, myself. I run a very busy design business. I host a weekly podcast. I write books. And I make things. All while being a father and husband. I dream of buying extra time as often as meth addicts grind their teeth.
I’ve managed to figure out how to get more done, though. I cracked the code. And now I want to share one of those tricks with you.
“Aaron”, you say, “I thought you were going to teach us how to get more done. Why are you suggesting we do less?” Well, there are two reasons.
Multitasking Doesn’t Work
The old theory that you can get more done by doing more at once is a myth, and a bad one. Multitasking is only effective at helping you feel stressed and overwhelmed.
For one reason, handling more than one task at once only serves to divide your attention. You simply can’t manage your email and build a quality logo at the same time. Trying to write your first novel while taking a client phone call isn’t going to give your story or your client the attention that each deserves.
According to researchers Teresa Aubele and Susan Reynolds, multitasking can actually decrease your creativity. By hopping rapidly from one input or task to the next, our brains aren’t allowed to stop receiving information and start processing it creatively.
The key, according to these researchers, is focusing on a single task at a time. Multitasking actually prevents us from giving a single task the attention required to complete it well. So while we may appear to be getting more done when we multitask, what typically results is poor quality, and there are consequences to that, such as having to redo the task entirely, or losing a client because of the disappointing results.
Stop multitasking. You’ll get more done.
Scheduling Too Much is a Bad Idea
It is tempting to look at a todo list with dozens of items and try to cram them into a single day. But in order to do that, we end up giving each task less time than it deserves. The result: frustration, confusion and breakdown in the system.
I am a firm believer in booking my day to 90% capacity. There will always be something that pops up, so scheduling in some flexibility helps me trust my list, stay calm and give focus where it’s needed most. But if I bite off more than I can chew, my success is much less guaranteed.
It’s incredibly important to know how long different tasks take you to complete. I’m a designer for most of my day, so I have had to get very good at guessing how long it will take me to design a business card or do the research on a new logo. So, when I look at my list of tasks and see “asset graphics for Client X’s WordPress site”, I know how much time to give allow for it on my schedule for the next day. And the better I get at guessing the times, the more productive (smaller needed-done to got-done ratio) my days become.
Over-doing it leads to under-doing it. Trust me.
I get it. You want (and need) to get as much done each day as possible. Your livelihood may depend on it, in many cases. But our over enthusiasm might actually get in the way sometimes. By focusing on one task at a time and building a realistic and achievable daily schedule you can actually get more done. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s effective. Give it a try this week.