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Switching between a number of different tasks during the day can make it hard to focus, and can make completing those tasks harder than they need to be. Instead of shifting your focus back and forth during the day, try and dedicate specific days to specific tasks.
It’s an idea called context switching. I’ve been doing it for a while now, but Fast Company called out the practice earlier this week.
The idea is pretty simple: Rather than shift your focus throughout the day, group together similar tasks so that you can streaming completing them. In Fast Company’s example, a business owner used the first two weeks of the month to meet with new clients and the last two to work with VIPs.
I tend to take the concept and break it down by days. So I might always do one type of task on Mondays and Wednesdays, and another on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Perhaps you reserve all your in-person meetings or site visits for Wednesdays or Fridays.
What makes sense depends on your personal job responsibilities and workflow. Breaking things down has a ton of benefits. Two big ones:
- You always know what you’re working on. Rather than juggling five plates Monday morning, you can start the week knowing “today I’m handling new proposals” or whatever the thing is you’ve assigned yourself.
- You don’t end up with “hell” days crammed full of unrelated things, only to have a day at end of the week where you’re surfing Facebook.
- You don’t have to constantly change your focus during the day, allowing you to really focus on what you’re trying to accomplish.
For me, it’s more about organizing things. When I have several projects I’m working on, it’s easier to group those things together on the same day rather than trying to spread out the work an hour or two a day all week. By giving something a dedicated block of time I’m able to really focus on it, and often get things done considerably faster than I would if I drug them out. It’s streamlining the process.
I’ve found meetings tends to be a huge time suck for me. I spend time prepping before and thinking about them after, which is great, but means that a 1-hour meeting takes around 2 hours out of my day. Putting them all together on the same day eliminates the stress of wrapping something too quickly so I can get to the meeting on time and struggling to refocus when the meeting is over and I need to get back to work. Spending the day moving from meeting to meeting isn’t wonderful, but it is easier.
Clearly, this won’t work for all job types, and how you break things up will depend a lot on what you do. While some people might be able to dedicate entire days to projects, for you, context switching might mean just dedicating your afternoons to a specific task each day while leaving your mornings a multi-tasking adventure, or blocking out a few hours for specific tasks each day.
The more like tasks you’re able to lump together, the easier the group of them will likely become.