Whether you’re a full-time entrepreneur or you’re starting a new business on the side, you typically find yourself filling multiple roles and juggling a variety of tasks. On Monday, you’re the CFO; on Tuesday, you’re the CMO; and on Wednesday, you’re the VP of Engineering. Does this sound familiar?
In spite of the many research studies that indicate multitasking worsens most people’s ability to get things done, you still find that it’s a necessity in your busy line of work.
Become a “Super Task Manager”
Have you heard the term “Supertaskers?” According to research published by Jason M. Watson and David L. Strayer from the University of Utah, only 2.5% of the population are effective multitaskers. Performance of tasks performed simultaneously is degraded for the majority of people.
I know many of the entrepreneurs who are reading this are thinking – yep, I’m a supertasker! If you think so, here’s a test from David Strayer that enables you to confirm your theory.
Multitasking is inevitable at times, so how do you survive in our multithreaded world? For the majority of the population, we recommend you become a “Super Task Manager,” rather than a multi-tasker. This doesn’t require genius-level, supertasker brainpower, just a bit of discipline.
Do you want to become a “Super Task Manager?” Follow the tips and tricks we’ve outlined for you today and you’ll be on the road to success.
1. Do a Daily Brain Dump
I don’t care if you won last week’s Jeopardy match; I still believe when it comes to remembering things to do, your memory is terrible. Not to mention, when you keep your to-dos in your brain, it creates stress and doesn’t leave room for creative thoughts.
Every day, when you start your workday, record all your tasks into a to-do list; this is your brain dump. Consider this the birth of your important assessment of daily tasks. This begins the process of deciding what’s most important for moving your business to the next level.
2. Grasp the Needle-Movers
Your business has goals – whether you want to increase profits, grow sales, widen awareness or increase customer satisfaction. Decide which of your tasks will move the needle toward those goals.
80% of what’s on your list is probably busywork and 20% of those tasks are needle-movers. Think about your long-term goals and outcomes and get these needle-moving tasks to the top of your priority list.
3. Be an Obsessive Compulsive Scheduler
When you schedule everything you need to do, you know exactly how many tasks, meetings, etc. you can fit into your daily schedule. In fact, research says that mental fatigue is reduced by better control of work scheduling.
When I say schedule everything – I mean EVERYTHING – not just events. Include your to-dos in your schedule; add meetings to your calendar; add lunch to your schedule; even add social media time to your calendar. Do you want to watch “Dancing with the Stars” or “Monday Night Football?” Then schedule it, as well.
What’s the best way to schedule everything? The LifeTopix app is a great app for recording and scheduling a variety of different types of things, while on the go. Many LifeTopix customers are busy freelancers, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and real estate professionals.
4. Learn to Let Go
Entrepreneurs typically like to take control of everything in their business, but sometimes they need to let go. Now that you’ve assessed and prioritized your tasks, you have a fantastic idea of what can be delegated.
Cloning yourself is not realistic, so if you have a team of employees, take the time to train them to complete tasks that are not highly strategic to your business or hire people who are up to the task. If you’re a solopreneur, outsource business tasks or items in your personal life to make more time for your business.
5. Hack Distractions and Interruptions
The problem with distractions and interruptions is you lose your momentum. Some small business owners and entrepreneurs manage distractions by blocking out their time to focus. However, distractions indicate your business is healthy and thriving because you’re supporting various employees, prospects and customers. Being accessible to answer questions and provide support keeps the business moving along at a healthy pace.
One simple hack to effectively manage these distractions is to record your thoughts (whether through audio or writing) at exactly the point when you left off each time you’re interrupted. This way, you’re not taxing your brain by trying to remember where you left off; and then you can easily switch back to the task at hand.
6. Get Online-Savvy
Using the Internet for research and everyday tasks is a necessity for freelancers, business owners, solopreneurs and entrepreneurs. But many don’t realize there are helpful tools, such as browser extensions and add-ons, to manage open pages and prevent online distractions.
Entrepreneurs typically have numerous tabs open on their browser. “Too Many Tabs” on Chrome and Firefox is a helpful extension/add-on that arranges your tabs in an easy-to-read format and also allows you to suspend tabs to release memory, which improves browser performance.
Another helpful tool to manage online distractions from advertisers is AdBlock, which allows you to surf the web without seeing the ads. And now, with iOS 9, developers have provided a variety of ad blocking apps to work with Safari on your iPhone or iPad, which are available at the Apple App Store.
7. Take Advantage of Background Tasking
One of the great advantages of modern computing is the ability to run processes in the background. You can run reports, compile code, run virus checkers, and more while you do other important work. By now, you understand what can run in the background and what cannot.
Like computers, we, as humans, can also run processes in the background. We quickly understand what type of tasks we can do simultaneously and when we must focus on a more complex single task.
Smart multitaskers make use of waiting time, such as doctor’s appointments, public transportation rides, long lines and while commuting (safe tasks only, such as Podcasts!). They also know which types of tasks can run in the background while they’re completing important projects, such as running a sales report while making cold calls.
8. Utilize “Thinking Time” in the Background
Everybody needs leisure time, and sometimes this time can be used strategically. When you’re playing golf, running, hiking, biking or knitting, take this time to think deeply about your business.
For example, imagine you’ve been invited to the opera, but you secretly have a distaste for opera music. You can use this time to think intensely about your business. Sometimes, stepping away and putting yourself deep into thought is a great way to find a new perspective, set goals and to unleash your creativity.
9. Harness Your Willpower
Have you ever noticed that your willpower is stronger during particular times of the day? Typically, your willpower is strongest in the morning, and you really propel forward when deadlines are quickly approaching. Take advantage of those times to get things done.
Moreover, much of willpower is simply about forming desired habits. According to research from the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes approximately 66 days to develop a new habit – and then it becomes automatic.
For example, if you have a habit of watching YouTube videos first thing in the morning as a form of procrastination; instead, focus on making a to-do list for at least 66 days in a row. Once this habit is solidified, you’ll never think about those silly cat videos again.
10. Resurrect Good Meetings
Being a “Super Task Manager” requires that you make the most of meetings. How often have you attended a meeting where participants are secretly responding to email, tweeting or completing work? They’re attempting to effectively multitask, but ultimately they’re performing two tasks at the same time very badly. This is a sign that the wrong participants are in attendance or the meeting is unnecessary.
Providing a good agenda is the best way to conduct useful meetings. Currently, a popular agenda format called TTOG is being used to improve the state of meetings. TTOG stands for Topic, Time, Owner and Goal. Essentially, it ensures that the subject, time spent, task owners and goals are clear to the participants. Once these guidelines are established, you and the team can move onto your important tasks.
With these simple hacks, I believe you’re on your way to being the “Super Task Manager” you wish to be. Good luck, and please share your multitasking and time management tips and thoughts.
One of the greatest challenges of a freelancer or those who work from home is staying focused, which leads to improved productivity. Many freelancers indicate that technology distractions and boredom are the focus-zapping culprits that plague their days.
Traditional workers might be in disbelief when the freelancer complains that they’re troubled by distractions. In their opinion, the freelancer doesn’t deal with loud office mates, chattering colleagues, persistent pestering from a helicopter boss and the never-ending meetings.
The distractions that freelancers face differ from those of the traditional worker. For example, in our modern environments, we’re bombarded with information that is competing for our attention. Facebook, Twitter and text messages are just to name a few. As marketers get more and more savvy and the messages and information we see become more and more personalized, it’s harder to resist the temptations that are presented – especially when unsupervised and when managing our own deadlines.
For freelancers, increased productivity means a bigger payday so the benefits of increased focus are clear. If you too are plagued by distractions, keep reading to learn a few tricks to increase your focus.
1. Turn Off Notifications
If universities offered Productivity 101 classes, this nugget of advice would be offered on day one. If you haven’t already turned off your visual and audible notifications on your devices from text messages, email, phone, apps and social media, then start today.
If the nature of your work or personal life prevents this strategy, turn off as many notifications as possible or schedule blocks of time or “sprints,” as described in the next section, without distracting notifications.
2. Take a Break Every 90 Minutes
Studies show that our brains can only focus for about 90 to 120 minutes at a time. Working for 90 minutes without interruptions and then taking 10 to 20 minute breaks in between each work sprint can boost focus and productivity.
There’s science that backs up this theory. Nathaniel Kleitman is credited for discovering the “basic rest-activity cycle,” which is described as cyclical sleep stages that start from light sleep and progress to deep sleep. Each cycle takes from 90 to 110 minutes.
What you might not know is that these 90-minute cycles also apply to daytime, which researchers describe as “ultradian rhythms.” Incorporating these cycles into your work pattern can greatly improve focus and productivity. You’ll also feel more refreshed at the end of the day.
An easy way to set 90 or 110-minute time blocks is to use your smartphone. If you’re using an iPhone, use the Timer function in your Clock app.
3. Learn to Focus Through Meditation or Yoga
As mentioned earlier, the messages and information we see on the Internet become more and more personalized and it’s harder to resist the temptations we see. In addition stress builds up as a result of this information overload. Practicing meditation and yoga can train your brain to focus and to make better decisions – thus, not giving in to those distractions.
Skeptical? There’s proven science that backs it up. Some studies show that meditation, specifically mindfulness meditation, decreases the volume of grey matter in the amygdala and increases the thickness of the pre-frontal cortex. The amygdala controls your “flight or fight” responses while the pre-frontal cortex controls planning, emotions and decision-making. Consequently, a regular practice of meditation can increase your power to concentrate and focus.
4. Use a Digital To Do List or Task Manager
When you don’t have a clear plan for the day, you tend to just go with the flow and nasty distractions rear their ugly heads. Before you know it, you’re updating your Facebook status bragging about the five-pound bass you just caught or that your golf score broke 100.
It’s important to build a roadmap for the day. To improve focus, a great use of technology is to use a productivity app with a digital to-do list or task manager, such as LifeTopix. With this all-in-one organizer, you can easily re-prioritize, update, copy and share your to do list and tasks. I suggest that you create a to do list every morning and review what you completed at the end of each day and re-prioritize as necessary.
5. Zap Boredom
Boredom – need I say more? Boredom can destroy your focus and energy before you even know what happened. Have you noticed that when you’re bored every distraction becomes more and more tempting?
Boredom is generally a result of monotonous tasks. I found a great technology solution to this problem – “Automation.” If you automate as many mundane tasks as possible, you can focus on more interesting and lucrative freelance work.
A great tool for automation is IFTTT. Essentially IFTTT is your personal assistant for your social media posts, applications you use and your smart devices. Essentially, you create “recipes” or use others’ published recipes, which are conditional statements triggered by changes that occur on the web. For example, when you create a new blog post, an IFTTT recipe can automatically post it to all your social networks. The good news is that you don’t need to be a programmer to use it.
As a freelancer, do you ever get distracted? What are your methods for staying focused? Please share and comment.