What often helps me work more efficiently and focus better on multiple tasks
As an independent entrepreneur quite often you have to work on multiple projects at the same time. Some projects might be professional that require your immediate attention, some might be personal projects that may turn professional one day that require your persistent attention, and some might be your personal goals without which your life would be incomplete.
Whatever is the consideration, don’t focus on quantity, because I have discovered that quantity can be very misleading and it can end up wasting lots of time. I will give you a small example:
1. I have a technology blog that I try to update multiple times every day
2. I have a website maintenance job that I have been taking care of for many years
3. I have aspirations as a writer and am working on a book
4. I want to do some hard core journalistic writing
5. I need to create a presence on social media
6. I have my content writing business to take care of
7. I need to do vocal singing practice every day with my daughter
8. I need to take care of my health (regular exercise)
9. I need to spend quality time with my family
10. I need to read a lot
Of course I don’t need to focus on all the activities every day. I need to do 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9 every day and the remaining as the need arises.
A good thing about number 2 is that I’m not working alone so there is always a mechanism to track what I’m doing, how much I’m doing and how much time I’m spending on it. There is a programmer in the Philippines I have to coordinate with because he can work only during a particular time frame.
For the rest, often I’m working on my own and when you work on your own, work and productivity can head towards opposite directions sometimes.
The problem area is number 1. This is where I lose track of time and once I begin to lose track of time, I end up wasting the entire day, at the cost of other activities. This is because I try to publish a particular number of blog posts every day and since I’m achieving my target, it doesn’t matter if I achieve that target in a couple of hours or 5 hours or 10 hours. This screws up my entire routine.
Allocating time on the other hand gives you focus. This idea came to me while reviewing Google Calendar recently. A few months ago I had read that instead of creating task-lists (to-do lists) to schedule your day, you should use a calendar because in a calendar, you actually mark the time you’re going to spend on a particular activity. When you simply have a task list, it doesn’t matter how much time you take in order to complete the task as long as the task is completed. There is no psychological ticking time bomb and we DO need a psychological ticking time bomb in order to use time properly.
When your tasks are not time-based, anything can disturb you and you are open to disturbances because your work is not time-based. If you can spend 30 minutes here and 40 minutes there in the midst of working on your project, it doesn’t bother you and then suddenly you realize the day is gone.
But when you know that between 9 AM-11 AM you have to work on a particular project and if THAT time is gone, it is gone for the day and you won’t be able to achieve your tasks. So you remain focused and you try to work efficiently.
What if you don’t achieve your goals within that timeframe? Of course you can always stretch your timeframe as you learn. There are certain things you can achieve in 30 minutes and for certain things you require 2 hours. You cannot know this unless you start tracking your time.
So what works better for me? Using a calendar instead of a simple task management tool. Yes, you need to have a to-do list because then you can keep track of what all you have to do during the day. But don’t just leave it at that. Assign time to those items on your to-do list, otherwise you lose track of time.