You’re on-site at a client’s project and you get a text from your apprentice. Turns out, they’re double-booked and at a different site.
Then you get an email about an overdue invoice your staff is trying to chase down (with no luck). And then, you get a call from a potential new customer asking for a quote.
Does this sound like you? If you’re juggling things while also trying to complete work for your customers — you know, the important part that gets you paid — then it’s time to stop multitasking, take a deep breath and organize yourself.
Multitasking is more nuanced than you think. It may seem like a good thing, but it impedes your business productivity and, worse, your mental health. In fact, multitasking can reduce productivity by as much as 40%.
Very few people can multitask in such a way that it doesn’t impede their overall work. That leaves everyone else to only think they’re multitasking effectively when they’re probably not.
So how do you stop the stress and get on top of your productivity? Here are a few ways.
Limit What You Juggle
It sounds easier than it is. Focusing on a single job or task — single-tasking — is a good starting point. It will help increase your productivity throughout the day.
If you need to do multiple things at once, try to combine an active task with an automatic task. For example, if you have a mundane task you can “switch off” while doing, pair it with something active, like cleaning while having a conversation.
If this is difficult because of how your business operates, then segment your day into 20-minute blocks. Focus on a single task for 20 minutes before moving on to another one.
You can even alternate tasks. For instance, start with a scheduled task, then after 20 minutes, switch to an ad hoc one. When 20 minutes pass, move back to the first scheduled task. And so on.
Either way, making small, 20-minute goals in your day means you’ll eventually complete the tasks you set for yourself, even if it’s in short bursts.
Batch Your Tasks
Similar to the 20-minute rule, “batching” means setting aside a specific time in your day to address particular tasks.
For example, you could spend the first hour of your workday reading and responding to emails. Stick to doing that task only during that time. This is especially useful if, like us, you can’t help but check your inbox constantly.
This also works on other tasks that might be similar, or related. Batching them all together — like, checking your social media channels, creating social media posts and monitoring social media feedback — will help you complete entire tasks in a single go.
The important thing when “batching” up your day is sticking to those assigned times. If you’re not completing tasks on time, don’t work overtime and ruin your whole day.
Instead, because you now know you need more time for a particular task, reframe your batch schedule to build in extra time for that activity on the next go-around.
Subtract Distractions (and Add Some Mindfulness)
It may seem obvious, but limiting distractions throughout your day will help increase your productivity, as well.
Distractions abound in the places where you work and the environment. For example, having your laptop open in your workshop makes reading emails too easy.
Change where you work or remove the distracting elements to help you focus on the task at hand.
Adding some mindfulness moments to your workday can not only help you focus, but it can also help you figure out when you’re multitasking inappropriately.
Performing your tasks with full awareness — focusing solely on what you’re doing right now — can help identify if you’re being distracted, and what’s distracting you.
And sometimes, this might mean turning off your phone. We know, it’s hard to do. But you could use the batching technique above to help you with answering texts and calls at different times.
We know that’s not possible for everyone. If that’s the case, then read on — we have a bonus tip just for you!
Mindfulness means focusing on the present moment, tuning into physical sensations, being fully aware of everything you do, and letting go of thoughts of the future or anxiety over the past.—Verywell
Bonus Tip: AUTOMATE!
The best thing you can do to overcome multitasking and increase productivity is simply to let technology do the work for you.
The future is now, and you no longer have to rely on yourself to get things done. Remember the example we gave about working on a client’s project and being bombarded by messages?
Each one of those things could be automated, taking them out of your hands and letting you focus on what you do best.
For example, you could automate staff reminders to ensure your apprentice isn’t double-booked on jobs. Better still, use an online booking system to keep track of staff availability and conflicts.
You could also automate your invoice chasing. That’s right, you don’t need to constantly phone clients who haven’t paid. You can even turn your invoices into multitaskers themselves and have them do your marketing for you.
Lastly, consider your estimating system. While it’s great you’re getting new jobs, your existing clients probably aren’t getting the best of you. They’ve paid for your time and expertise, you should be applying yourself 100% to them.
Again, automation is the answer here. Creating an online quoting tool can keep you off the phone. It, too, can multitask — an automated estimating system tends to filter out lookie-loos and sends you only meaningful, ready-to-buy clients.
In the end, multitasking is less about (unsuccessfully) juggling multiple tasks and more about harnessing the efficiencies technology can deliver.