Sunday, November 8, 2009

Avoid multitasking

I was reading a blog post from David Mackie about how he finds he needs to work with the TV on in the background. He was considering this in light of the article - ‘One thing at a time’ which again further points out the fact that multi-tasking is a sure way to kill your productivity. I replied to David’s post saying that firstly, having the TV on in the background is probably not true multi-tasking merely distracting because you don’t NEED to pay attention to it. Secondly, if you find that it does improve your productivity then there is nothing wrong with that PROVIDED that it is actually improving your productivity.

I recently came across the article - ‘If you only do one thing this week, avoid multi-tasking’ which again provides ample evidence of the inefficiencies of multi-tasking but the following caught my attention in relation to David’s post:

‘And if you think that cannot apply to you because you're a whiz at juggling tasks, consider the recent findings of researchers at Stanford University in California: people who routinely multitask are the worst at ignoring irrelevant information, regularly switch between tasks and have poorer short-term memory – in short, all the skills needed to multitask successfully.’

My point being that unless you MEASURE your productivity how are you every going to know doing something is making it better or worse? Having the TV on in the background MAY make you feel more productive but is it really? You’ll never know unless you MEASURE and experiment. There is also plenty of research about the effect that music has on concentration, especially the so called ‘Mozart effect’ which I am experimenting with now. At the end of day all this doesn’t count for squat unless it actually works for YOU!

Improved productivity is something that needs constant work and discipline because it is so easy to fall off the wagon and end up browsing the web for cats flushing toilets.
and as you can see I have exactly the same problems because I have found the video on cats flushing toilets!

The next question is how do you start to measure your productivity? Here’s a few of my suggestions:

Rescue Time Great piece of software that tracks the time you spend doing different things on your PC. A free and paid version is available.

Manic Time - Another great free piece of software that tracks just about everything you do on your system in a huge amount of detail and provides a really nice interface to see exactly what you are doing.

OneNote – Part of the Microsoft Office suite of programs, which will be included in every version of the Office 2010 release. Amazingly handy for recording most ad-hoc information on a day to day basis. Combine it with an Internet hosted SharePoint and it really shines.

Theses are probably the top 3 applications I use to measure/improve my productivity but as I said it is always an ongoing process so if you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them.