Thursday, March 23, 2006

One thing at a time, sweet Jesus

It is always worth a visit (thanks Jason for making me aware of its existence), but Passionate's most recent post is very close to my own heart (and head!).

Multitasking has to be one of the biggest myths of our generation. Most of us know we can only do one brain-intensive thing (properly) at a time, and yet we still find ourselves trying to do far too many things at once. I am (gradually) learning to do things consecutively rather than concurrently, and find that I get things done a lot quicker, better and with a lot less stress.

Using time well is the key. I work to the principle of:

If you know it needs doing - and you can do it now - do it. Now.

There are so many tiny things that we leave until the last minute, and there are often 'dead spots' in our day when we could get them done. I know I'm a control freak, and that what works for one person doesn't always work for someone else, but learning to exploit those 'five-minute' gaps has created more 'quality-time' and less stress.


Can Opener Boy said...

Hey Brett,

I agree about the quality suffering -- I experience a juggling list of to-do's all day long at work, and then try and multi-task my way through my evenings and days off as well.

The hard part for me about breaking that bad habit is this:

If I know of something that needs doing, and I *can* do it now, I should do it now, right?

What if I have 2 things (or 15 things!) that need doing, and any one of them could be done now. Which do I choose?

Multitasking gives me not only the illusion of greater efficiency -- it also dupes me into thinking I can be free from the pesky chore of prioritization!

Multitasking seems to be the way to go if I want more efficiency (doing more things in the same time frame, or taking less time to do the same things). If I have 15 things to do, I just mark them all as "Priority 1" on my Palm Pilot's To-Do list, and then start trying to do as much as I can in the time I have available.

...and head toward the abyss of stress...

But Serial tasking seems to be the way to go if I want to be more effective (doing the right thing in the right way at the right time).

But how do I choose which of the 15 things to do first?

~ Keith

brett jordan said...

Hi Keith

In brief, my prioritising criteria goes something like this...

1. Stuff that will incur penalties (to me and/or other people) if it isn't done by a certain time

2. Stuff that will be of benefit to me and/or other people

3. Other stuff

Once that is sorted, I do the creative and difficult stuff when I know I have the most energy/least disturbances, and the mind-numbingly boring but essential stuff when I have time but not so much energy/concentration

Another important thing is to set time limits for the stuff you love doing... for me that is anything that involves photoshop or typography... i can easily spend a day retouching a photo, or perfecting type... sometimes 'good enough' is good enough :-)

Can Opener Boy said...

Thanks Brett,

That makes a lot of sense -- especially the time limits idea!

~ Keith