Most entrepreneurs believe their success equates to how many hours they work, and how many tasks they can juggle at once. But according to Psychologist Ellen Bard, being productive is about working smarter, not harder, and in fact multitasking can be detrimental to our mental health.
YouInc recently spoke with Bard, who works with remote workers and entrepreneurs around the globe, to deconstruct industry perceptions about productivity, get clear on what productivity means, and give you four examples of how you can begin to regain focus in your work:
Be clear about what you want to do
Productivity seems like something we all understand, but I'm not sure it always is. If we don't understand what productivity means to us, then we're not going to be productive. So, have clarity about what you want to do. Is it doing more in less time or is it doing more generally? Then, go back to what it is that you want to be productive about.
An example you can use: Author Cal Newport's theory is that you can sustain effectively concentrated attention for smaller periods of time. Depending on how easily distracted you are, depends on how much time you think; he considers focus almost like a muscle.
Focus on one thing at a time
We have hundreds of thousands of distractions coming at us from all sides. If you don't have the ability and comfort with focusing on one thing at a time, then you're going to struggle to be productive. It’s about understanding yourself. I’m not amazing first thing in the morning, so I don't do anything important as soon as I wake up.
An example you can use: I have a morning routine that sets me up for the day, and then I do most of my concentrated work for the rest of the morning. I know I’m more able to concentrate between say 11am and 1pm. I tend to push my lunch as late as possible to try and take advantage of that time, and leave smaller tasks for the rest of the afternoon when I have less concentration.
Say no to the things that aren’t so important
The next reason that makes some entrepreneurs more productive, is saying no to other people or saying no to other unimportant things. Often we get caught up in the wrong kind of activity, like the task that isn't going to promote whatever our business is. One of the things I do is write fiction. It can be easy for me to get distracted by promoting my business on social media, and doing things which feel useful and important. But actually, the thing that is going to help me be a writer is writing.
An example you can use: After I read Cal Newport’s book, I turned off every single notification that I have. Instead of my social media, my email, and my messenger pulling me in, they’re now a push activity. I have to go in collectively to see if I have email. You would think that would be how you choose whether to be bothered by them, but we don't even seem to think about the number of notifications that pop up these days.
Pay attention to yourself to understand your best way to work
The better you understand yourself, the better you understand what you’re like. If we try and replicate what Kim Parrish or Arianna Huffington does, then it's not about how we work. Rather, if you see what other people like and see what applies to you, then the more effectively you can use that information.
An example you can use: You have to find the rhythm that's right for you. That might be having a post-it note to keep drawing your attention back to whatever you’re doing, or break up your periods of attention with pomodoros or sprints. I also recommend people turn their WiFi off. I don't turn my WiFi on in the morning until I’m done my morning routine, because as soon as I do, I am sucked into other people's priorities.
So, what are you going to do tomorrow to be more productive? Share your ideas in the comments below.