There was a time in my life where I touted the fact that I was a great multi-tasker. After all, if you weren’t doing at least two things at once, you were wasting time.
I am no longer of that mindset. Multi-tasking can result in missed opportunities in connecting with the people and often results in subpar delivery of the tasks at hand. When engaging with other people, if you are not actively listening, then you are not placing value on other people’s time or knowledge, thus wasting these two precious assets for everyone involved.
Then, how do you get everything done in the finite time we have during the day, while staying sincere to those around you? It is a proven fact that the human mind is not wired to effectively participate in two stimulating activities at the same time. In fact, it is counter productive to do so. For instance, you cannot be engaged in conversation while also reading or writing (a.k.a. checking/responding to email or scrolling through the news). However, if at least one of the tasks at hand does not require significant brain power to accomplish, there could be opportunity to optimize areas of your day.
As a remote employee, I have an advantage that not all working professionals have. I am able to fold laundry or throw something into the crockpot on conference calls where my primary role is to receive information (think: staff meetings). This mundane task (the laundry, not the meeting) helps me focus on the conversation more than if I were sitting in front of my computer, tempted to check that email that just popped up.
I also catch up with colleagues while walking the dog in the morning. Optimizing this 20 minute window kickstarts my day efficiently and can be the difference between being able to shut down once my family is home and having to open up the laptop after the kids go to sleep.
Warning: you have to be intentional in how you optimize your time so as to not waste the time of others. There are limits to what type of conversations or meetings are productive in these environments. I cannot reference visuals or take notes while walking and while I can look at a screen while slicing peppers, I cannot easily jot down notes.
Another goal I focused on this year: pick up the phone. If I have more than one question or multiple points to review – it is more effective and efficient to call my colleague and follow up with an email stating our plan of action. Or perhaps a colleague pinged me earlier in the day but I was not available – a quick phone call on the way to pick up my kids from school may allow them to to be productive with their task rather than wait until the next day when I have time to respond via email or chat.
Next time you need to have a 1:1 conversation with a colleague or you’re having trouble solving a particular issue at work – take a walk around the office or get outside for a few minutes. I have recently come across an app called Charity Miles, who partners with non-profit organizations and corporations to donate money from corporations to organizations based on the number of miles app users walk/run on behalf of their chosen organization. Now, I am able to raise money for the ALS Association while also getting a breath of fresh air and walking my dog! You might be surprised at how a change in scenery can broaden your perspective or ignite a new way of thinking. It might also encourage you to have more face-to-face interactions rather than depend on email and inner office chat systems to engage your colleagues (something I can’t do as a remote employee!).
Another opportunity for enhanced productivity is your commute and/or morning routine. Take this opportunity to invest in your professional development. Find a podcast that engages an area of interest for you or perhaps a new area of business you have entered. (Pro tip: listen to podcasts at 1.5x speed to get through the content faster but still retain the message). When I listen to a podcast in the morning, it often ignites levels of productivity and positivity that otherwise take a little longer to find.
I hope one of these suggestions will allow you to optimize an otherwise ordinary window of time in your day!
PS – if you’re up for some no nonsense advice around productivity, check out this article.