Want to Get More Done? Split Your Focus

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(Inc. article) Sounds counterintuitive, right? Trust–you’ll get a lot more done this way.

If you going to write a blog post about how to save time, you need to get right to the point.

So, here’s the big idea: If you work on project two, when you take a break from project one, you accomplish a lot more.

Here’s how I came to learn that.

I am always looking for ways to save time.

I love the Johnny Cash-Steve Jobs-Albert Einstein idea of wearing the same type of clothes every day. (My wife has her doubts, but I am working on her. A light blue button down shirt, khaki pants, and blue blazer is perfectly fine in about 90 percent of work situations.)

I always create a list the night before of all the things I have to do tomorrow and make sure I have everything in place so that I can begin immediately–no wasted time looking for a file, or a supporting document or phone number, or email address.

And that list is always in rank order from most important to least, so that when something comes up–as it always does–I will have made progress against the most important things I have to do.

The doing-other-work-as-a-form-of-a break came about because I have the attention span of an over-caffeinated gnat. There are some people who literally can sit for hours at a time and concentrate on the task at hand. I am not one of them.

And what I used to do during my breaks–which only averaged five or 10 minutes at most–is do stuff that was vaguely important: respond to an email; skim the trades, put all the paper that constantly piles up in the recycling bin. You get the idea.

Here’s what I am starting to do when I need a break: More work.

When I need a break from what I am working on I will spend a few minutes on something that is due months from now. For example, I have a HUGE presentation to my biggest client in three months.

Currently during my five or 10 minute breaks, I am working on that presentation. There is always something to read that is relevant; a point or two I can add to the detailed outline I am creating; a slide I can edit in the PowerPoint deck I am creating. You get the idea.

I do it and then return to the task at hand.

When I turn my full attention to creating that presentation two months from now, I will be that much further ahead.

And I will be using my breaks from working on that presentation to create something whose deadline is even further away.

I can always skim the trades, returns emails, and the like at the very end of the day when I am tired and organizing my day for tomorrow.

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