Do less not more for a better work-life balance

Jo White posted in culture May 29, 2019

We mentioned in our ‘Be more productive every day blog’ that multitasking actually reduces your IQ and it has a remarkable effect on those around you too. When you sit next to a multitasker the mere sight of them switching from one thing to another exhausts your brain.

It’s quite extraordinary to think that such a skill was once revered as the most productive way to work and key to success in a busy department.

But research shows that those ‘expert’ multitaskers aren’t as effective as we once thought. They’re not necessarily doing more they’re just switching from one task to another. It’s no surprise then that they have more trouble organizing their thoughts than someone who focuses on one thing at a time.

When you view the brain as a muscle that needs as much rest as the others, you can see exactly why this way of working causes fatigue and overall, poor quality work.

Worry no more, with a few simple changes outline below, you’ll be more focused, have a more productive day and a greater work-life balance.

Focus on what’s important, forget the rest

You’ll know the 80/20 rule, known as the Pareto principle that 80% of the output comes from 20% of the input. The key is identifying the 20% that gives you the greatest return. Once you do that, you’ll clearly see where to focus your attention each day. One thing’s for sure, it won’t be juggling millions of tasks!

Be selective in what you do. When you work in a busy team, you’ll always be asked to take on more or be invited to another ad-hoc meeting. The trick is saying no. Question your contribution and your priorities. It’s not about getting the most done in the day; it’s about focusing on less to excel.

Fortunately, at Capsule and perhaps in most software companies, we work in 6 week development sprints, which are aligned to very clear, focused OKRs (objectives and key results). While we keep a close eye on the market, we’re not distracted during those 6 weeks so we consistently deliver higher quality work.

In a less structured environment, where work is more reactive, individual discipline will be paramount.

Banish to-do lists

There’s a school of thought that says to-do lists are a distraction in themselves, they’re merely an unfinished list of stress that simply overwhelm us each day.

The only place for a to-do list is when you need to get everything out of your head. The next, most important step, is to prioritize the top 5 items and forget the rest.

This focuses the mind on what’s important and achievable. It allows you to fully concentrate a chunk of time on one piece of work rather than jump around a random long list.

Remove distractions or schedule them

The most successful entrepreneurs get things done by scheduling instead of writing to-do lists. If it’s not on the calendar, it simply doesn’t get done.

This knack for scheduling also includes activities such as browsing social media and responding to emails.

By allocating time for these ‘distractions’, you gain more control over your day. Switching off notifications then blocking out 15-30 minutes to check Slack, Gmail, Facebook, Instagram etc will actually save you time throughout your day. After all, it takes a phenomenal 25 minutes to return to an original task after a distraction.

Take plenty of breaks

Heard of the ultradian rhythm? Research shows your brain can only focus for 90-120 minute sprints until it starts to slow and needs a break. If you push through the fatigue with caffeine and snacks, you end up using your emergency reserves and your thinking slows down, you become reactive and start to think less clearly.

So every 90-120 minutes you’re advised to take a break for about 20-30 mins before you start again. When those 20 minutes are spent clearing your mind of clutter, focusing on nothing in particular, you’ll benefit from enhanced creative thinking too.

Better work-life balance

To be more productive and get a better work-life balance remember 3 simple things:

  • Focus on a maximum of five priorities
  • Remove distractions
  • Take plenty of breaks

If you’re a habitual multitasker changing to a more focused approach to work will be difficult at first but it’s worth making small changes every day. Your productivity will soar and you’ll get a much better work-life balance in the long run.

There’s plenty of software available to support this focused way of working, from a simple calendar to scheduling your tasks in a CRM system like Capsule. The key to whatever you choose for support is to keep it simple.

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