This week I am talking about multitasking and why it’s a bad thing for productivity. You’ve likely heard the old adage that HE WHO CHASES TWO RABBITS, CATCHES NEITHER – or maybe you prefer SHE WHO CHASES MANY RABBITS CATCHES NONE. Simply doing one thing at a time is the most direct way to be EFFICIENT and ultimately PRODUCTIVE in what you set out to do. If you “chase too many rabbits” or too many “goals and objectives” simultaneously then you will likely find that you end up with none of them at all.
This weeks show references the book The One Thing by Gary Keller. If you'd like to buy a copy please choose to buy through Amazon using one of my affiliate links. This supports the show as I get a bump back from Amazon for recommending it :-)
Thanks again for clocking in and listening to the show. I really appreciate the fact that you are willing to give this podcast your time from whatever hectic schedule you find yourself in. If you like what you are hearing and want to help the show then the best way to do that is to just tell people about it, subscribe to it, and to leave a great review. I want to build an audience and although I’d be happy to know that it helps just one person out, good audience numbers will, in turn, help me to have faith that it’s all worthwhile.
On last week’s show, I gave you 4 productivity rules to hack procrastination and get things done. If you missed that episode then check it out as it’s a doozy. As usual, I’d love to hear how you are getting on with the techniques and concepts that I talk about here and you can get in touch via the contact page on filmproproductivity.com. Why not leave a message for me on the speakpipe voicemail service I have there? H you in person would be really quite amazing.
One other thing I want to say at this juncture is that I will do an episode on goal setting towards the end of the season or maybe even at the start of the next as without clear long-term goals, much of these productivity techniques effectively become tools for fighting fires as it were – Tools for dealing with the more immediate problems that come up in our life and work.
Once you have a vision and a goal to reach they will in turn support that and help you to move towards it. I look at this 1st season, and the preseason too as kinda being themed for those suffering overwhelm and burnout so I have that in mind as I choose topics. The tools for fighting these productivity FIRES that come with overwhelm will buy you time to stabilise your position and starting looking towards those long-term goals.
THIS WEEKS INTRO
To choose to follow one idea when our brain is churning out a 10 new thoughts a minute though, can be very difficult, but until you can get over that hurdle and get yourself focussed on one thing then you’re guaranteed to dissipate your energy and slow down your journey towards whatever goal you have in mind.
I personally don’t find this easy by the way but I’m getting better at it. Even as I sat down to write this episode I had to stop myself from doing too much at once. Although I have a clear idea of what I wanted to say I found myself with a copy of Garry Keller and Jay Papason’s awesome THE ONE THING book at my side, about 8 or 9 different tabs on the subject opened on Google, and social networking pings and addictions luring me to look at my phone every 2 minutes – I was jumping from one the other to build up the episode and offer new things and new ideas but it was slowing and slowing and the episode was going nowhere. I’ve had to stop and take on my own advice. Now the phone is off, the book and tabs are away and I start again with only one thing in mind. To create an episode on this topic that will make a difference.
Just before I go onto the lesson I just want to say that the book, THE ONE THING I mentioned a minute ago is awesome, and I will do an episode review of it somewhere down the line for sure. I’ll put a link to it in the show notes but although I’ll touch on some it’s key messages here it covers way more than these basic concepts and I can highly recommend it. Gary Keller points out in THE ONE THING that “Multitasking is a lie” which is kinda where I’m going with this episode.
Messing two things up at the same time isn`t multitasking”
The constant jumping about of the mind really slows us down. That’s one of the fundamental problems with the multitasking. Every time you switch, you need to refocus on a new thing, and that in turn takes a bit of time.
When I first looked into this I heard this example. If you count, 12345 you can do it in like 2 seconds. And if you go through the alphabet a,b,c,d,e, then maybe 1 or 2 seconds works, but if you have to do both at the same time, 1a, 2b, 3c, 4d, 5e then the total time is nearer 5 or 6 seconds. For me, in that one example, that’s multitasking proven to fail. And a win for the DO ONE AT A TIME ideology.
Concentrating on a single task is one aspect of something called FLOW, or the FLOW state of mind. WIKIPEDIA says about this, quote “In positive psychology, flow, also known as being in THE ZONE, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one's sense of space and time.” Put simply then, if you are jumping about you really will never hit any sort of flow.
New York Times Columnist David Brooks points out that “A person who is interrupted while performing a task takes 50% more time to complete it and make 50% more errors.”
I used to think that multitasking was something I was good at, and I had a sort of pride in it, but I have come to realise now that it just slows me down and if anything it stops me from achieving my goals. I might feel busy and productive but the reality is that I still jump about between tasks and with every jump I slow down and lose more and more time as I tune back in.
I can kinda multitask “a bit” but only on a very basic level. For example, I can walk the dog and listen to a podcast, but to be honest, that’s maybe slightly unfair on my dog Angus who demands somewhat more attention than at times I want to give. You’re almost guaranteed too that 5 or six times in the walk I’ll yank the headphones out of my ears or their socket when I throw a ball, and I have to reset it. But by doing this I am kinda doing more than one thing at the same time. If I multitask on most things, however, I am literally just doing a bit of one and a bit of another and then returning to the last one and doing a bit more.
When multitasking, the quality of your work goes down, and your understanding and comprehension goes way down with it. More often than not when I meet a new person I instantly forget their name – because my mind is somehow distracted and unable to process or retain the new information. I’m terrible for this and I really have to work at it.
So multitasking short circuits the short-term memory, meaning that very often we have to revisit things which if we’d done one thing at a time we would have managed. When doing several things at once, your mind is divided between them and it’s guaranteed that your mistakes will multiply.
The name forgetting thing is a good example. An AD introduced himself to me on set yesterday and I was straight in and working out a fight and I had to covertly ask his name a wee bit later. I’d totally not taken it in. You see when I'm multitasking: I can listen, ignore and forget at exactly the same time.
And today’s fast-paced digital world where we have phones pinging every couple of minutes and apps to which we become addicted makes focusing on just one thing all the more difficult.
Maybe you have more willpower than I do, but if you want to stop procrastinating and get stuff done. Let's start by putting that phone far away – like in another room, and by using the do not disturb function, by just deleting the apps that suck your time away time and time again or even by turning it off! Yes, I went there – turn your phone off, then your productivity will increase as your focus on the task at hand narrows in.
I have a freelancer stress thing about my phone that goes beyond the app addiction btw. It’s a hang on from the days when I really needed the work. I feel that I can’t miss a call or that if an email comes in I must answer it right away. I’ve basically had to deal with that. I know it’s a thing. My higher level thinking self, knows it’s not that important and so when it comes to meetings or even visiting family or friends I try to switch my phone off. Unless I know that I am expecting something important. The thing is EMAILS generally DON’T NEED RESPONDED TO RIGHT AWAY and unless that important CALL is expected, you can ALWAYS just CALL SOMEONE BACK. We can chill out. Everything is going to be alright.
We all know too that checking your phone whilst you are in a meeting or with friends, then it’s kinda rude and disrespectful but can find ourselves doing it nonetheless. In a meeting, it means you are not on the ball and if you a professional then you should bring your “A game”. Flight mode, silent, do not disturb or preferably off are all better options than checking your Facebook feed whilst the director talks about their vision. Have a notebook and a pen. That’s what you really need. And you can always doodle if you have to. Just give others your full attention and show respect. Be IN THE ROOM.
If you are running a meeting then ask people to turn their phones off. I know many go paperless now on ipads etc but they can still have their devices on flight mode if you ask them to.
Before I wrap this all up I need to talk a little bit about mindfulness here. This is a productivity pod but I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that saving time and energy is not really about fitting in more and more work.
Becoming more productive simply means to be more efficient and effective. I said this in episode 1 and its important – it’s kinda the whole point in fact - If we can be more effective , save time, be better, be more productive we will move forward in our goals and as we do that and achieve great things, it will free up more time for family and friends, and for us to think about our health and ultimately improve our outlook and spirit. Never lose sight of that. Buy yourself a break.
I’m open to the possibility that you do not like what you hear here or that you totally disagree but if you genuinely want to be more productive, significantly more productive - then you just have to learn to do one thing at a time.
Gary Keller says that SUCCESS DEMANDS A SINGLENESS OF PURPOSE but even knowing all this I still find myself checking emails when I should be working, and checking Twitter and Instagram when I should be paying attention to the people in front of me. And I still end up on Youtube watching cat videos and the knight rider theme played on the Banjo (Which is awesome btw but I digress).
If you can do one thing at a time and not get bored by the focused effort, not check your twitter feed or play a game every couple of minutes and interrupt whatever, then you are far more likely to succeed.
CALL TO ACTION
I’ll be revisiting this subject now and again as there’s a little more to it that I think will be useful for you. I don’t want to overload you with too many applications of this. In learning, as I learned myself when I became a fencing coach many years ago, we all need a period of reflection on a topic, to think about it and ingest and consider it before bringing in more.
Take these gaps between episodes to consider what I’m introducing and try the techniques out.
Try to kill that nasty multitasking habit you’ve gotten into, or your forever distracted by technology way of working you have developed once and for all. This episode covers a simple but powerful message. Give it a try. You’ll thank me later.
So thanks again for tuning in - Next episode I’ll be talking about my TWELVE WEEK YEAR and how I used it as an escape plan to move out of an overwhelmed rut and onto the path of productivity.
For now, though, take control of your own destiny, keep on shootin’ and join me NEXT TIME on Film Pro Productivity.
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You can view the show notes for this episode at filmproproductivity.com/episode10
If you’re struggling with something you think I can help with or would like to tell me how you are getting on then please get in touch via the contact page on the website. Alternately you can get me on Twitter @fight_director or follow the show @filmproprodpod
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Thanks: A Himitsu, Stephen Rowan, Dave Bullis Podcast, Podcraft.
Main Photographs taken on the Giordano UK shoot by Bryan Larkin.
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