It’s been proven that multi-tasking will not make you more productive. Your brain turns into a sieve and you’ll actually accomplish less and not do anything well. But how do I get everything done?
I have so many thoughts in my head and things going on in my life that I’m finding I just can’t operate the way I usually do – several things at once. Otherwise I really would have found the cheapest gas around instead of the most expensive. When I was checking out, I was already thinking ahead to the next to-do and didn’t realize the attendant gave me change for $50 not the $60 I had given him. I have lots of examples like that lately.
So how do I learn to “be in the moment” and get it together to accomplish what I need – including sleeping through the night without waking up every 2 hours building my to-do list?
First, I had to stop spinning and decide how I wanted to feel – in general about life. For me at this point, it was simply “I want to be in control and focused.”
I decided I needed to set my intention for the day, each day – and for each major project (I define “project” as anything in life that needs doing – finding a new meaningful career, building up your personal brand, work engagements, helping your parents, house projects, and on and on). I needed a clear image of the outcome I wanted to achieve. A working definition from About.com for intention is: “to have in mind a purpose or plan, to direct the mind, to aim.” Lacking intention, I know I get distracted, my mind wanders and I’m totally unproductive.
Intentions are more than just building a task list or setting goals. That’s easy. Intentions are thinking through how you want to accomplish something – how do you want to feel, how do you want to portray yourself, what’s the purpose of the project or task, what do you want to get out of it in the end, how will you know you’ve done it well. Intentions help you mold your focus.
Here’s what I have found that works best for me:
- To start, I created a project list – both work and personal – with a task list or to-do’s under each. That was a start of clearing my head. At least I knew what I had on my plate.
- Next, at night before I close down my work day, I set my intentions for the next day. I tried doing it in the morning but then an hour or so slipped by before I started into anything productive. It’s takes a bit of discipline – when all I really want is a glass of wine.
- I look over my project list and decide what is important to accomplish the next day – what chunk can I break off, how many hours will I devote to that, how will that move me toward the end project, how will I feel about completing this part. I don’t take on too much of any one because I may need to tackle a few projects in a single day.
- Write it down. Just a couple of lines. You’ll be surprised how it commits you. Now walk away. Don’t keep thinking about it. Give your mind a break.
- Next morning, look over your intentions. Are they still right? Did anything happen in the meantime to change priorities? If so, make adjustments. And start in.
- At the end of the day, review what you accomplished. How do you feel about them? What can you do different or better the next day? Now, set your intentions for tomorrow.
Setting intentions helped me take greater control of and feel better about my life – both work and personal. It became my guiding force and created a positive energy flow for the day. I’m able to remain centered and focused throughout the day.
In the beginning, since this may be new to you, you might start by setting intentions for running your errands. Before you leave home, set the intention to have a pleasant experience while in route to your destination. Set another intention to have a pleasant experience while you’re shopping. You’d be amazed how helpful this can be.
Now tackle your projects. Focus on the result that you want to achieve. Give it a couple of weeks and see if you don’t have better experiences in your work, in life and with your level of productivity.
Diane, The Midlife Woman’s Career Coach
Diane Howell Topkis is the author of 26 Keys to Unlocking Career Change Success for Midlife Women, the first in her Career Clarity series. Diane works with midlife women to gain the clarity and confidence to reinvent or re-energize their career into meaningful work for their next chapter. Please visit www.YourNextChapterNOW.com to receive your free workbook Is It Time to Reinvent My Career?