By Ann Berchtold
I recently read the book Singletasking: Get More Done – One Thing at a Time by Devora Zack. Zack points out that multitasking, while it seems would be the most efficient use of your time in tackling numerous tasks, in reality, it’s not. It makes you more stressed, less focused resulting in none of the tasks being completed at your greatest potential. One recent study indicated that multitasking could lower your productivity by as much as 40%!
The idea of singletasking is to do ONE thing at a time and ONLY one thing. When we apply an intense focus on the effort in front of us, the results are better. Productivity is improved, and so is overall happiness. One approach that Zack points out in the book is the cluster tasking technique, which combines similar activities and tasks into a single time block to help you work more effectively and eliminate disruptions. This technique is particularly beneficial when dealing with email, a constant source of distraction that can wreak havoc on your day if not managed properly. Zack’s cluster approach to emails works as follows: block out several times a day, for a discreet period of time, to devote to reading and responding to emails. It is essential to cluster jobs that require maximum concentration around your “internal prime time.” This is the time of day, according to your body clock, when you are most alert and productive. You must also be aware of your “external prime time.” This is the time of day when your clients and customers are most available.
At Olive Creative Strategies, we have incorporated the cluster tasking technique into our daily work in several ways. The best time to reach our editors is earlier in the day, so we reserve mornings for pitching. Each pitch requires research, a personal approach, and a deep understanding of the editor and specific connection to the story. We have a strict policy of not scheduling meetings or client calls in the morning so as not to interfere with this “external prime time.” The payoff is that Olive has a stellar record for getting results for our clients and we have built strong relationships with our editors because we are focused on providing them something of value at the best time of day for them.
Other cluster techniques include reserving the end of day for brainstorm meetings to discuss client strategies. Studies have shown that fatigue can actually free the mind. Counterintuitively, we tend to be more creative when our brains are cluttered. Prior to these meetings, we share the goals/objectives so that team members have time to marinate. We ask them to come to the meeting with ideas to share with the team and then we free-associate and build on the best ideas. We have found this activity is the most productive use of this time of day.
And finally, inspired by our client the Chopra Center we encourage our team to take at least 15 minutes of practiced quiet reflection each day to clear their minds and focus on their own goals.
All of these approaches have improved productivity at Olive—which has led to healthier employees and increased performance for our clients.
Interested in chatting more about singletasking vs. multitasking? Send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.