Note: This is a guest post by Mary Jaksch of Good Life Zen.
Do you try to keep too many balls in the air? I do. I try to stuff at least two lives into one. I’ve tried various ways to accomplish this without stress, but it’s only now that I’ve found the answer: Serial Multi-tasking.
This is how I’ve attempted to cope in the past: I’ve tried to write an article, cook dinner, organise events on the phone, and dash off an urgent email to Zen students – all at the same time. But it doesn’t work for me. What happens is that my mind becomes very jumpy. I find it hard to concentrate and begin to feel stressed and overwhelmed.
Another way I have tried to cope is by focussing on one project at a stretch. For example, I have just completed writing my Ebook From Tragedy to Triumph: How to Win Trough a Life Crisis. In the last six months I poured most of my time into this one project, whilst neglecting the other areas of my life. What happened was that the deserted areas of my life started to wriggle and niggle under my skin and people around me started complaining. That too made me feel stressed.
Now I’ve found a new way to be productive on many fronts. I call my method Serial Multi-tasking. The goal of serial multi-tasking is to determine the five main strands of one’s life and continue to develop them during the course of each week for at least one hour at a time. In this way we can maintain momentum in the various strands of our life and ensure that no important task gets neglected.
Here are three important steps for implementing serial multi-tasking:
- Keep a productivity log in order to make sure that no task gets left undone, and to see and celebrate progress.
- Chart your progress in the productivity log in order to switch seamlessly between projects.
- Celebrate your achievements at the end of each week
You can use serial multi-tasking in your job and apply it to the various strands of your work, or you can apply it to your life in general.
Here are 8 steps of using serial multi-tasking:
1. Buy a small ringbinder. This is your productivity log;
2. Make a list of the top five must-do areas of your job or life. If you are using serial multi-tasking to improve your life as a whole, make sure to include not only work and chores, but also other important strands of your life, such as exercise, or time with family or friends. Designate a section of your productivity log to each of these areas;
3. Make a rough plan of the week. A week has 168 hours in total and let’s say that you sleep for 7 hours each day. That leaves you with 119 hours of active life each week. The way you use these 119 hours determines the quality of your life. Assign a number of hours per week that you wish to spend on each of the five strands;
4. Plan to develop four of your five main life strands on each day. A chart will help you keep an overview. For example, my Monday chart looks like this:
Pin up your chart for each day on the wall or put it up on your desktop for quick reference. Keep a copy of your charts in your productivity log;
5. Dedicate at least one hour of uninterrupted time to each area for maximum productivity. This enables you to collect your mind, re-connect with your project, take some new steps and then make some notes about how to continue;
6. Eliminate distractions. Turn off the radio or TV. You might also like to turn off your phone during focussed project time. If that’s not possible, answer briefly and call back later;
7. As you complete each dedicated period of time, make notes in your productivity log. Detail what you just did, as well as what you plan to do next. This will enable you to transition seamlessly from one project to the next;
8. At the end of each week, spend time going through your productivity log. Focus on what you have achieved, not on what is still to be done. Choose the area where you have been most productive and write a note of congratulation to yourself.
If you follow this program of serial multi-tasking, you will find that you can achieve a lot more in your life. More importantly, it will spell an end to unpaid bills, unopened letters, half done projects, and a general sense of stress. Instead you will feel the satisfaction, pride, and pleasure that come from high productivity.
The author Mary Jaksch is a Zen master and psychotherapist. You can read her blog at http://goodlifezen.com
This article is part of June 2008 theme: Productivity