Myth 2: Rigid Schedules or Artificial Compartmentalisation of One’s Life
There was a time when people had a fixed compartment for their work life (usually nine to five) and then they would deal with other compartments of their life. That – in many industries – soon gave way to an unhealthy amount of time spent at work, with little or no time for one’s non-professional work pursuits.
Both are sub-par approaches to the dynamic nature of modern-day life and to managing time.
Remember the lesson on life being a continuum?
Also, each of us has a unique body-clock. Some of us do our best work early morning, some at night and some early afternoon. Find the best time for you to perform the various tasks that you must. For example, if you are a night person, could you leave early from work, spend time with your family in the evenings and get to professional tasks sometime later at night?
Bottomline: don’t create artificial compartments for your life. Find the best time for you -based on your body clock – to schedule the tasks that you must handle.
Myth 3: Multi-Tasking
Evolution has rendered the human brain unendowed for multitasking. Survival for our caveman ancestors in the Savannah required the brain to bring to bear all its attention on the single source of danger confronting it in the moment. Losing focus in that instant, by being distracted by some other stimuli, would have meant certain death. The human brain thus evolved to handle one activity that required mental capacity at one time.
Our lives are different from our caveman ancestors. Unfortunately, our brain’s structure and ability are not much different from theirs. Our brains are not wired to switch between tasks. We work best when we focus on one activity at a time.
So, when you switch tasks in between any task that requires you to use your full mental capacity, for example taking calls or responding to emails you will simply take longer than usual to finish your tasks. If giving it your full and undivided attention could have helped you complete a task in ten minutes, then the time that you will take to complete that task itself will be significantly longer, if you task switch.
The frequent stop/ start means of working would mean that it will take you a while before your brain is fully able, once again, to bring its best to bear on that task. You will take longer than otherwise to complete that task itself.
Research by scientists at the University of California at Irvine, the link to which we have provided below, found that it takes around twenty-five minutes for people to recover from interruptions and get into the groove of the mental task they were performing prior to the interruption.
What works best is ‘single-tasking’, a term coined by entrepreneur and author of The Four-Hour Week, Tim Ferriss, which refers to working on one activity at a time, and then moving on to the next.
Yes, in today’s complex, hyperkinetic work environment, each of us has multiple projects and tasks to perform. Yet, we do best when we work on individual tasks related to a larger project, at a time. Task switching is always suboptimal.
If you wish to manage your time better and improve your efficiency and productivity, then avoiding these three myths will greatly help you in these endeavours. You will also do well to focus on the contents of the next lesson. For now, please take the quiz accompanying this lesson.