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Stop Multitasking and Practice Kotsu-Kotsu

Do you ever find yourself answering texts or emails during Zoom meetings? If you do, you’re not the only one.

Multitasking seems like a great way to get more done in less time. But it’s actually undermining your productivity and causing more stress if you do it all the time.

Why? Because humans are just not wired to multitask. 

According to psychology studies at the University of Utah, 98% of people can’t multitask effectively. 

Many cultures are ahead of the game on this. While Americans are all about multitasking, the Japanese actually have a word for doing just the opposite. Focusing on one thing at a time is called “kotsu-kotsu.” 

Are you ready to give up on multitasking and try it out? You should be.

Listen, we all know deep down that multitasking doesn’t really work. Look at texting and driving — it’s a dangerous combination.

Well, so is texting and Zooming. Just in a different way. 

When you’re not devoting your full attention to the task at hand, you’re undermining your ability to bring all your skills to the table. You’re also making it hard for yourself to find joy in your projects.

The science backs me up: It’s time to ditch multitasking. So how can you embrace kotsu-kotsu?

1. Create task-specific time blocks.

Kotsu-kotsu calls for simplifying your routine and not taking on multiple tasks at once. It also means fully focusing on what you’re doing in the present moment.

Doing one thing at a time is the first step to being completely present and prepared to find joy in your work, be more productive, and reduce your stress. 

What does this look like?

Here’s an example: make lunch for eating only. Don’t also catch up on emails! Or if you take a morning walk, enjoy that walk — never schedule a work call for that time or listen to a podcast. 

I know it’s tempting but I’m pushing you to try it. 

Making room for task-specific blocks of time is the first step to incorporating the kotsu-kotsu principle into your routine.

2. Change your mindset.

Taking that phone-free morning walk sounds great, but if you’re preoccupied with what you need to do when you get back to your home office, you’re not practicing kotsu-kotsu.

Be mindful about how you approach each individual task. Are you thinking about all the other things you need to do? Or are you completely devoted to what you’re currently doing?

Being mindful will look like different things for different people. Making lists is one key tool that can help you get into the right mindset.

Figuring out what kinds of lists will serve you best and then staying accountable to those list-making routines will help you declutter your brain and stay focused on the present. 

This is something I talk about in my LinkedIn Learning course, “The Power of Lists to Get Stuff Done.” You can check that out here. 

3. Elevate your space. 

It’s really hard to be present and have a good mindset if you’re working in a messy environment. Having a clean, organized, intentionally-designed home office space is key to making kotsu-kotsu part of your routine.

You also need to have the right tools and tech. A raised computer to minimize neck strain and noise-canceling headphones are two simple ways to upgrade your setup.

I actually have a course on the tools you need to give your work-from-home office a productivity makeover. You can check that out here.

I hope these tips help you think about using kotsu-kotsu in your daily routine. Do you have tips for ditching multitasking? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Do Less to Get More Done

The more I write about productivity the more I realize that good time management isn’t about rushing around trying to get everything done.

When it comes to productivity, less is more.

Disorganization is often a result of misguided attempts at efficiency.  Meaning, trying to cram as much into a day as possible instead of being strategic about what you can get done with the time and resources you have.

I value quality not quantity and for me the best approach is to do less and do it better. But how does that actually work? Read more

5 Time Wasters to Get Under Control

(Photo Credit: www.fitlike51.com)

(Photo Credit: www.fitlike51.com)

I go to a lot of conferences and meetings and when I ask people “how have you been?” they often say “busy.”  I get it – we are all busy but some people are addicted to this idea and this mentality.  They say busy as a place holder and it becomes their story.  But when you really think about it — all that busy time could probably be a lot more productive if you canceled out the time wasters.  While those extra commitments can help fill up your time, it doesn’t always mean that you’re using your time wisely. Most people waste time each day without even realizing that they’re doing it!

Here’s a list of time wasters that tend to sneak up on us:

1.     E-mail: While e-mail can be a quick and easy way to communicate, there are times when a phone call can get the job done quicker. I love e-mail, but sometimes it can be a pain waiting around for someone to respond—and sometimes people forget and never do! When needed, it can be more effective to pick up the phone or meet in person to get a question answered faster.

2.     Multi-tasking: It’s great to be eager and take on as much as possible, but there comes a point when enough is enough. When you take on too many projects at once, it often results in nothing getting done. By prioritizing your tasks (with a to-do list!) you’ll be able to focus and plan out what task to do when to make sure it gets accomplished. Plus, I don’t believe in multi-tasking, it’s impossible.

3.     Meetings: Nothing is more frustrating than unproductive meetings! There are so many times when meetings lose focus and nothing gets accomplished. It’s important to make sure there is an agenda that is being followed at all times. If you’re going to be using any kind of technology in the meeting, be sure to set that up ahead of time so people aren’t waiting around. Plus, write down a few key points that you hope to get across so when it’s you’re time to speak you can be succinct and efficient.

4.     Using your computer mouse: Who knew that something as simple as reaching for the mouse can waste your time! By using keyboard shortcuts, tech experts say you can save two seconds per minute. While it may not seem like a lot—believe me, it can add up! When the clock never stops ticking, even the smallest things make a difference.

5.     Social Media: Probably what we’re all most guilty of– wasting time on the Internet. Quickly checking your notifications on Facebook or Twitter can lead to hours of wasted time—even when we don’t mean for it! It’s natural to click from one thing to the next and end up with no progress on your work at the end of the day. If you find yourself guilty of this, there’s an app called SelfControl that lets you block specific websites for up to 24 hours.

What’s your biggest time waster?

Here’s What You Missed While You Were Multitasking

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Fast Life #2 (NYC 2006)

Fast Life #2 (NYC 2006) (Photo credit: Zohar Manor-Abel)

 

That’s one of my favorite movie quotes of all time!  Recognize it? If not — it’s from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  Of course, Ferris (Matthew Broderick) was talking about skipping school and canoodling with his girlfriend.  But the high school delinquent does have a point.

Just yesterday I decided that my 10-minute walk to the subway would be better spent looking around — instead of fixated on my iPhone.  And just like that — there were no emails read, texts sent, songs listened to or lists made.  It was just me, my sneakers and New York City. Read more

Multitasking Is Impossible

I used to think I was a great multitasker. But then I learned that it’s impossible to multitask. It’s possible to juggle a lot of projects at the same time but not to multitask. If you multitask you never really focus on the task at hand so your attention is scattered. It can be very dangerous too — how many times have you been driving and then realize you don’t even know how you got to your destination because your mind was elsewhere.  Being mindful of what you’re currently doing will help you accomplish more.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Just Say It: Sometimes when I have a hard time getting started I will repeat in my head over and over the task that I want to accomplish. “Write tomorrow’s blog, write tomorrow’s blog, write tomorrow’s blog.” By doing this – I stop and listen to myself and actually start the project I want to do. It’s like you’re clearing out all the other noise and reminding yourself what needs to get done.  You need to train yourself to focus.

2. One Thing at a Time: Paying attention to each task you do will make you more efficient. Instead of bouncing around from one thing to another – finish what you’re doing first.

I recently produced an interview with Rep. Tim Ryan about his book “A Mindful Nation,” which is all about mindfulness and being more aware of your surroundings. He told a story about UCLA coach John Wooden whose first lesson to his players would be how to put on their socks. He did this so they paid close attention to the act of putting on their socks before each game – that way they would avoid getting blisters. It’s the simple things that are the most important.

3. Reward Yourself: It’s OK to bribe yourself every now and then. ☺ Sometimes all you need to do is “talk yourself into” doing one task. For instance – if you finish cleaning out the garage you can get a manicure or massage for your hard work.

4. Make Time for Yourself: Be sure to schedule “me” time on your to-do list. This could be watching your favorite show or listening to music. But by putting yourself on your to-do list and not worrying about any other task during that time – you will be much happier and productive.