How Many Times A Day Do You “Shift Gears?”

As I’ve been working with multiple clients/projects/startups, I’m constantly battling focus challenges. A common misconception about productivity is the ability to multi-task. There’s good and bad multi-tasking.

I believe good multi-tasking comes in the form of activities that are complimentary to a big goal. I’m listening to Spotify while writing this post and not checking email. Many people watch the news on the treadmill. All good.

Bad multi-tasking is switching between tasks that are going after different goals. For example, writing a proposal and answering email about your kids’ sports team.

All afternoon, I’ve been working on Gigable and then tried to read a brief about another startup for which I’m advising.  It didn’t work.  Better to stay in the Gigable headspace as long as possible, then take a good break and reset.

I sometimes call this “spinning plates” and I think human nature forces us to pay attention to something new as it happens. Can someone drop mail on your desk and you don’t open until end of day?  Email is the same distraction.  Do you have your email open all day and anytime the drug-like “Inbox(2)” shows up, you are a pavlovian dog. I am.

However, as I bucket activities and goals into daily sprints, this is all changing. My newest routine is to plan and focus activities based on big goals. So, I’ll only work on Gigable activities on Wednesday until I’ve exhausted the to-do list.

This mindset became apparent to me while songwriting.  Songwriting is the type of activity that needs 100% focus. Any type of creative activity requires a “flow” state which takes a while to achieve (it does for me anyway).  Once you are in flow, you move through it until you reach a point.  This point can be 1 hour later or 4 hours later.

Blocking off full days for focused activity pertaining to a major goal seems like the optimal strategy. However, I think it’s possible to break the day into 2 parts.  3 parts if you are really energized.

Conversely, switching between every possible goal/project daily is sure death. That breeds burnout, stress and adult ADD. This may work for a while, but it will catch up to you.

What works for you (or doesn’t)?