How do you feel about multi-tasking?
Are you an expert at working on lots of things at once? Do you have the ability to speak on the phone at the same time as responding to an email and making a cup of tea?
I used to feel proud of my ability to do ‘everything’, a queen of multi-tasking I thought…
But with recent emphasis on mindfulness, and living in the moment, perhaps combined with getting older and watching my son grow up so fast I’m starting to realise that ‘now’ will be over all too fast and I’ll miss it if I don’t take time to notice and appreciate all that’s happening now.
Children have an amazing ability to focus on just one thing…..have you ever tried to ask a child to wash his hands for dinner while he’s watching his favourite tv programme? No response….nothing….not even a flinch! And I’m sure it’s not just my little one!
And whilst I feel huge frustration at his ‘ignoring’ my requests, I also admire and wonder at his ability to live in the moment – the ‘right now’ of watching his favourite tv programme where all that is going on with the superhero of the moment is all that matters.
So how can we learn to be more focused and let go of the constant multi-tasking (that I’m fast learning just doesn’t work!)?
One way is to use The Pomodoro Technique. I love this and use it all the time. For serial multi-taskers like me it forces me to focus for short bursts as I gradually train myself to be more focused and possibly even a bit more mindful and in the moment.
The idea is that our brains focus best for just 25 minutes at a time.
Step 1 – decide what you’d like to get done – a piece of work, a task, big or small.
Step 2 – set a timer for 25 minutes when you will only focus on this task – nothing else. Make a promise to yourself!
Step 3 – work on your chosen task until the timer ends. If you get distracted – write whatever is distracting you down, put it to one side and quickly get back to your task.
Step 4 – stop when the timer ends – make sure you do stop, even if you haven’t completed your task. This is all part of the technique. Congratulate yourself that you’ve completed your first Pomodoro!
Step 5 – take a 5 minute break and do something away from the task and your work – make a cuppa, go for a walk, do some stretches – whatever works!
Step 6 – repeat the process steps 1-5 again, three more times. For every four Pomodoros take a longer break – 20-30 minutes is best to give your brain chance to recover.
You can read more about the technique and how to get the most from it here:
Give it a go – and let me know how it works for you.
Emma Shute & Jenny Pollock are the founders of Women to Work. They coach women in group wokshops and one to one sessions to focus, plan and make great progress towards their ideal work life.