This is a guest post from Pierre Khawand. Pierre founded People OnTheGo in 2001 to enable business professionals to communicate and collaborate more effectively using leading edge technologies. I met Pierre at one of his fantastic productivity workshops, and was honored to be a featured guest on two of his webinars: Gen Y in the Workplace and Twitter 101. Is Task-Hopping Holding You Back?
Does this happen to you? You start to work on a task and then casually without even noticing it, you slip into another task and let the first one just fade out and then die. This happens again after a few minutes. And then again!
Half an hour later, you don’t even remember what the original task was. Not only that, but you wonder what you got done in the last half an hour. This is what I call “task hopping.” It seems to happen more often when a task gets a little more challenging or demanding than we wish to handle at the moment or when another more enticing proposition or interruption shows up. The problem is that task hopping - unlike bar-hopping which can be fun and engaging - diminishes our ability to do creative problem solving and strategic thinking, and to get meaningful things accomplished.
In my new book The Accomplishing More With less Workbook, and the free eBook (The Results Curve™: How to Manage Focus and Collaborative Time) I illustrate the above problem using actual graphs and provide some specific steps that you can take to minimize the impact of interruptions including task hopping. One of the tools that I discuss is the use of a countdown timer when working on an important task (and when focus is of primary importance). Setting the countdown timer for 40 minutes (or whatever time period you choose) has significant productivity benefits.
The Benefits of Using a Timer to Prevent Task-Hopping
1. The timer heightens our awareness of time Just the fact that the timer is running seems to drastically heighten our awareness of time and allow us to quickly notice when we deviate from our task. It’s as simple as that. It is fascinating that such a simple and easy tool can have such an impact on our focus, but it does.
2. The timer creates purpose The timer helps us put a stake in the ground and declare that we have officially started the task at hand. Without such a clear signal it is easy to stay noncommittal, and for task-hopping to sneak in.
3. The timer creates accountability Once the timer has started, in 40 minutes you will clearly know if you accomplished what you intended. The timer also helps us better estimate the time it takes to get things done in the future.
4. The timer prompts us to move things forward Using a timer prompts us to face the issues, make decisions, and move things along as opposed to dwelling on issues and staying indefinitely in analysis/paralysis mode.
5. The timer as a stress relief mechanism The timer signifies that we have given ourselves permission to be where we are for the time period we have chosen. Now we can more easily give up the guilt or anxiety that we would otherwise experience for not being somewhere else and not handling all the other things that need to be handled.
The Happy Sound of Accomplishment
Once you start your task timer, the happy sound of accomplishment is only 40 minutes away, and when you hear it you are likely to experience a great feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!