While we pride ourselves on our ability to multitask, that should not
mean trying to do them all at once. To do something well it needs all
your focus and energy. This means we need to get comfortable with
serial working on multiple projects. And we need to learn how to
prioritize the right tasks, which are normally the important/non-urgent
How? If you want to get more done, go offline to prevent distraction.
That's right, close the door to the Internet and your productivity will
increase. Your email client probably has a work offline option. This
will help you author and respond to email without interruption. Your
web browser has the option to close the navigation toolbars. Yammer, IM
and Tweetdeck can be closed until needed.
But what if I miss something? If you are already working on your Must Dos – the ones you know are most important to you – then don't sacrifice them for the chance there might
be something even more important out there. If there is, it'll find its
way to you. Meantime, you can feel comfortable that your current focus
is where it should be. If you are worried about the half-life of
incoming actions, schedule breaks to check your email and feeds, and
focus on that triage, before returning to your Must Dos.
Serial working is also a matter of respect for your peers and
competitors. There are fewer rewards for second place, so get it done
right and done quickly. You can't do that if you are parallel working
on several tasks with your focus split across all of them. Your best
work needs all your attention and effort. Otherwise, that less gifted
competitor who is more focused will do a better job. Give him enough
respect to allocate all your attention on the task. You're good, but
they're not bad either.
If you are involved in lots of projects, but find few come to final
fruition despite enormous efforts, serial working could be for you.
You're still a multitasker, but a serial do-er. Don't stop until you
reach 100% of what you can achieve alone. Then move on to your next
important task. At first, it'll feel odd as you overcome the addiction
of jumping from project to project, but I hope you will find it more
productive and more satisfying when you make things happen.