As a small-business owner, you likely turn to multitasking to manage competing priorities. Unfortunately, the brain is not set up to work on more than one thing at a time. According to "The Myth of Multitasking," an article from the Center for the Study of Technology and Society, it takes an average of 25 minutes to get back to what you were doing after interruptions by phone or email.
Clearly, multitasking is not the best way to get things done. Instead, experts recommend deep work--thoughtfully eliminating distractions and focusing on one thing at a time.
The challenge is, our brain likes familiarity and predictability, known as status quo bias, and we often think we are better at things than everyone else, which is optimism bias. So making the switch is not easy, but it's worth it.
Even if you are a master multitasker, you will still be more productive when you transition to deep work. Here are six tips to get there:
Turn off all notifications for a week
Your status-quo-driven brain will tell you that you need them, but you don't. After a week, you can determine which notifications you want back. You may surprise yourself. My only notifications are for texts and phone calls.
Narrow priorities to separate important work from busy work
As author Nir Eyal says in his book Indistractable, the opposite of distraction is traction. You can't know what is a distraction until you have outlined what you should be doing.
Break big goals into their smallest parts
When "create podcast episode" is on my to-do list, it is easy to procrastinate because it is a big task. But when I break it down into mini-tasks--determine topic, write outline, complete script, record, etc.--it is easier to check things off and move forward.
Set aside focused time
Your brain can't do only focused work all day every day. Once you separate "deep work" and "other work," determine the best time for each and set aside blocks to do your deep work.
Have a signal to show others when you are in deep work.
Wear headphones, close the door, or get creative with a colorful sign on your computer. Find an obvious signal and let everyone know what it is.
Eliminate (or significantly reduce) distractions
During focus time, put your phone in airplane or do not disturb mode. Then, move it anywhere out of sight or your brain will get distracted. If you use Word, turn on Focus Mode (it will change your life) and consider a tool that will alert you when focused time is up, so you don't keep checking the clock. I use a Time Timer, which has a great visual application so your conscious brain doesn't get distracted.
Now you have the steps, it's time to amp up your productivity and dig into some deep work. Which project will you tackle first?