It’s not clear who originally said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it,” but I do know my Dad’s version: The busy person gets things done.
Why do you suppose that is? A Scottish proverb suggests “What may be done at any time will be done at no time.” I think some of us can certainly attest to that – especially in these last few months: with all the time in the world, nothing seemed to get accomplished.
Does that suggest that a busy person always has a TO-DO list longer than can possibly be accomplished in a day? Is a busy person simply more productive? Does a busy person have more of a sense of urgency? Or might a busy person be a phenomenal multi-tasker?
Busy does not necessarily mean productive, nor does the ability to multi-task suggest better productivity. On the contrary, studies are starting to reveal that multi-tasking, can in fact, be a time waster: switching from one task to the next to the next can add seconds in between tasks as our brains reorient themselves. Mere seconds don’t seem like a lot, but they add up quickly if the multi-tasking continues.
Think of the profound switch between left brain (analytical and critical thinking) and right brain (creative and artistic) tasks. For instance – if you’re a solopreneur or otherwise required to wear a lot of hats during your day, you could be switching from creating that marketing campaign (right-brained) to ringing up sales (left-brained) to schmoozing a customer (right-brained) to talking to your accountant about your taxes (left-brained). Not only can this invite a waste of time, it may even keep you from being your most productive self. Busy, yes. Effective, not so much.
The answer is to spend your time wisely. Batch your tasks. Spend at least twenty minutes focused on one thing. If you must multi-task, limit it to two tasks at one time. Also, when batching, identify each task as right or left brain dominant and try to tackle all the items requiring one side of your brain before moving on to the tasks that require the other side. You have the potential to save some time and perform each task at a higher level than if you constantly switched back and forth.
Another benefit of being singularly focused is the potential to get into the zone. People often describe being in the zone when they are so engrossed in what they’re doing, time seems to disappear, and hours may go by feeling like only minutes have passed. Multi-tasking and switching quickly from one task to the next or doing several at one time can easily keep you from reaching your zone.
Which are you – a multi-tasker or single-focuser? Do you consider yourself a busy person? Is multi-tasking one of the tools in your box to get things done? I’d love to know below the best ways you use your time.