Updated: Jan 18
With most workers who can work from home it seems that there is an increased factor of constant task switching. Being ‘accessible’ to virtually anyone in your office at any time (instant messaging is a huge culprit here) can take its toll on your productivity as well as the general ability to focus on one task at a time which is what our human brains are wired to do. Here are some tips to keep the wear and tear of your mental transmission to a minimum in these changing times.
Whatever communications tool that you use (for instance, Microsoft Teams), take advantage of the ‘do not disturb’ feature of this. Many feel that the DND feature is only for those who just don’t want to be bugged but in actuality it is a very useful and simple feature. Not only does it minimize the distracting IM popups on your screen, but it also lets your coworkers know that you need to get focused on your tasks at hand and makes them think twice about asking you something that maybe isn’t critical right now. Do Not Disturb is a great feature and widely underused when trying to remain focused.
Make a List
This is a bit old-hat but I feel it’s worth mentioning. Nothing helps you set objectives like making a concrete list of things to get done. For me, I’ve structured my list like a Kanban board where I have varying degrees of criticality for tasks that are on my plate. Based on the most critical or time-sensitive, I put those tasks into my ‘today’ bucket and then that helps me form a plan of what I need to achieve in the day. Generally, unless I am drastically deviated from my plan, I try to not shut down for the day until I’ve cleared my ‘today’ list. This helps not only with eliminating procrastination but also with keeping to your plan of just getting things done.
Prioritize Incoming Work
We all know that you will have interruptions during the day. The trick is being able to triage and prioritize unplanned work or requests. Going back to my previous point about your to-do list, as new work comes in, determine where this fits into your board and unless it’s critical to be addressed immediately, slot it into your work board to be done at a later time and go back to your plan for the day.
Human brains are not wired to ‘multi-task’ and anyone who says that they are multi-tasking are just doing one thing at a time but switching back and forth many times which really just leads to doing a poor job of the multiple things they feel they are tackling at once. Good work takes focus and the way to focus is to block the distractions. Keep your focus and you will find yourself much more productive than your multi-tasking co-workers.