Two Simple Ways to Work Smarter Not Harder

Do you ever have trouble focussing when you’re working on the computer?  Do you sit down to work and 30, 60, 90 minutes pass and you haven’t made much progress?

Since I’ve been self-employed, I have been at times very unproductive with my days.  I feel like I’m working all the time, but getting almost nothing accomplished. Over the past few months, I’ve recently started these two practices. The results? More focussed work, less time wasting. It also created more free time in my schedule to do other things that are important to me like meditating, spending time with nature, and yes, even socializing introvert style.

1) One task at a time. This practice changed my life. What you do is this: Sit down with your most important tasks for the day.  This is usually 1-3 things. Light a candle if you’re at home or do something else to signify to yourself that it’s work time.  This could be putting on headphones, closing the door, or anything else that signals to yourself that it’s time to get stuff done! I Don’t check email, Facebook, phone, or Zillow (house dreaming), the fridge, etc for this time. When I do this, I also set my phone on “airplane mode” and “do not disturb” (I need to do them both so I don’t get any notifications or messages whatsoever).

It’s surprising to me how effective this simple practice is.  One of the reasons this works is because studies have shown that multitasking makes it more difficult to complete tasks.  There was one particular study I found amusing—it explored how multitasking and pot smoking impacted the ability to perform on tests.

Each group was asked to take a test.  The multitaskers had to take the test while answer phones, emails, etc. Another group had to take the test while high on pot.  In addition there was a control group who took the test without any particular circumstances.  The multitaskers performed much, much lower on the test than the control group.  Interestingly the pot smoking cohort scored higher than the multitaskers!

2) Decide how long a task will take.  I heard this tip from life coach Brooke Castillo who is a multimillionaire and works less than 20 hours per week.  I had doubts that I could do certain creative tasks in a set-time (like writing a blog post, planning a yoga class, etc), but it seems to work in more cases than not.  The reason is the task expands to the amount of time we allow it to.  If I tell myself I have 4 hours to plan my class, it will usually take that amount of time, plus I will have spent lots of time on social media and youtube. If I tell myself I have 1.5 hours to plan a class, it will usually get done in that time. 

Which tip resonated with you the most?  Try one of them out for a week and let us know how it goes!