How to Have a Day Job: On Multitasking

howtohaveadayjobsnow

This week, I’m in an extensive training at my day job. It’s essentially eight hours of training, although we still have to keep up with our normal tasks. The topic is expansive and very mentally consuming, and I’ve found myself having to really focus in on understanding what I’m learning to do.

At the end of the day yesterday, we got done with about an hour to spare. I’m rocking the equivalent of mental bed head, and the trainer goes, “Okay, I’m going to set you all loose to go back to work so you can finish whatever you need to for the day. But you were probably working on it during the training too, but that’s alright! That’s what power users do!”

I stopped and sort of squinted my eyes because I was a bit thrown off that this guy – whose entire role at this point was to teach us a job – was essentially accepting if not encouraging us to give half of our attention.

As I’ve given more thought to it, though, this seems to be a talent that is fostered in the corporate workplace. You should be able to juggle tasks. You should be able to split your attention. You should be able to work and work and work and if you aren’t getting it all done, there is a problem. It essentially becomes a new evolution to ‘quantity over quality,’ even though the ‘quantity’ is a number of tasks rather than a massive amount of a single one.

And as I gave it some thought, I realized that this mindset has seeped its way into my every day life. I am constantly thinking how I can get multiple things done at once, dividing my focus so at the end of the day I have a grandiose list of all the things I’ve done (even though they’ve been half-assed). And when I can’t get all those things done? I get discouraged.

And all of this after I had made a determination some time ago to be more ‘present.’ News flash: hard to be present when you’re being present in five different things at once.

So here are some brainstorming ideas I have put together for kicking the habit of having too many habits:

  • Create a list of priorities daily: it’s easy to go ‘here are the things that are the priorities in my life right now’ but how often does one go ‘here are the things that are a priority today’? This is different from a to-do list, though. It is not a questionable list of fifty things that you swear you are going to get done today. Pick three. For example, my priorities today were my writing, my art and my day job. Once I accepted those priorities, I felt much more focused. Likewise, once I accepted what was not a priority, I found what was really important.
  • Portion out time for specific tasks, even if there isn’t anything to get done: this is something I am really trying to do at my job. Instead of having a huge group of items that need done all in a pile, I’m setting different piles of what I know I need to do on a day to day basis. For example, checking my voicemails. If I have any voicemails, they are being done at a specific time. If I don’t have any voicemails? Cool. Time to move on to the next pile. The point, however, is that I am stopping to acknowledge that this is the time I am doing this thing.
  • Keep notes: recently I’ve been trying out the bullet journal method, which has been very helpful, but when you’re sitting and working and suddenly go, “Oh man, I wanted to do this other thing!” don’t stop and try to figure out how to do that thing. Jot it down. Something simple that you can remember later. Then, at the end of the day, look at this list and think when you can schedule these things to be a priority. Plan accordingly.

How do you feel about multitasking? Am I the only one who is tired of this madness? Is there anything wrong with being, say, a rechargeable user? Tell me about it on Twitter or Facebook!

 

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Why I Still Make Lists

I love productivity apps. I’m always so excited to look at what I can do on my phone, and how I can get programs to react to me doing things. Cleaned my room? Look at the experience I gain for my character! Walked around the block? Look at my plant grow bigger! It’s very gratifying.

But I still keep paper and pen handy to make lists.

Why?

  • I like having a physical list in my hand.
  • I like the sensation of handwriting.
  • There’s a real satisfaction to drawing a line through an item on a physical list.
  • It’s usually quicker making a list that way.

The biggest reason I’ve found to do this, however, is the accountability. When I have a physical list in my hand, I’m more likely to look at it. To touch it. To move it.

If I am really subconsciously avoiding doing something on my phone I can just look at any other of the 50 billion apps that are open on top of it.In fact, I find myself forgetting sometimes that I even made note of things because out of sight, out of mind.

Do you have a traditional means of productivity? A tried and true? Tell me about it!

Sing Us a Song (And Get Things Done)

solo

Recently, I have found that music has been my saving grace, so far as my productivity/creativity/sustainability has been going. The importance of my life having a great and appropriate soundtrack has been crucial, and I want to share some tips because you all deserve to have a swelling orchestra on your side, too. Or Nirvana. Nirvana has been working really well for me.

  • Decide how much you are willing to pay for it, and do your research: you don’t have to break the bank to get streaming music from the magical world of the Internet. There are plenty of free options, but you’ll have to stomach the commercials every now and then (more frequently when you decide to skip a song). Recently, I’ve been exploring the Google Play Radio, because you not only have the choice of customizing a radio station by a song/artist, but there are also a lot of stations by activity, genre, etc. Some are pretty damn specific. There’s also Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Prime (that one pays for itself with the shipping and Kindle lending library), so on.
  • Get the right stuff for the right time of day: I try not to listen to mellow stuff in the morning, because it makes me want to go back to bed. This inevitably leads to one of my ‘dubstep’ stations. Likewise, at night, I usually want something chill, like a movie soundtrack. I’ve also been taking a strong look at how certain types of music impact different kinds of tasks. If I’m reading or doing something text heavy, I avoid stuff with complex lyrics that my mind will get hung up in. In fact, the more I need to focus, the more I go to something without any vocals at all – which doesn’t have to be baroque, by the way.
  • What am I making and what does it sound like: when I’m writing, using music in a smart way can actually really add a dimension to my characters and scenarios. Is it a face-off between the hero and the villain? Anime soundtrack! Is it a romantic moment between lovers? Cue the REO Speedwagon! Is it an actually serious moment between lovers? Maybe opt for some Andrea Bocelli.

Life can be busy. Times can be tough. Don’t do it in silence. I dare you.

Lark VS Owl: Ding Ding

owl v lark

Or “How Not to Get Pigeonholed”

HA. Do you see what I did there?

Okay, anyway, so…there’s a popular notion that there are two types of people when it comes to habits: morning people and night people. Or morning larks and night owls. For most of my life, I have established a card-carrying owl status. When I was in college, my sleeping hours were about 5am to 10am. My bursts of energy tend to come around 9PM to 10PM. I’ve gotten a lot of awesome work done while perfuming my artistry with fumes from the midnight oil.

A while back, I actually found myself getting angry, because with my day job, I do not have the ability to stay up as late without being a zombie the next day. “It’s not fair!” I said. “The world is out to get me!”

But the fact of the matter is this: if you want to get up early, you will. If you want to accomplish things in the morning – if you really want it – it can happen.

Note: if you don’t want to, that’s totally fine and acceptable. But if you do, read on.

For roughly the last week, I have been experimenting with getting up a half-hour early. That’s it. Just 30 minutes. It’s a drop in the bucket so far as a day’s time goes. And it was because I decided that I wanted to be able to get things done first thing, so I wouldn’t have an excuse in the evening. I flipped the script because I saw the results in my mind and took steps to make it happen.

A few tips if you’re trying the owl to lark idea:

  1. Decide on a schedule beforehand. When you’re going to bed and when you’re going to get up. Stick to it.
  2. Get some really good coffee. Drink some in the morning. Just watch all the additives.
  3. Have a bed ritual. For me, that was taking one of the Olly Restful Sleep gummies from Target at 10pm. Not only are these great for getting a full night’s rest if you tend to overstimulated at night, but it sets a countdown in my head. I know that within 30 minutes I won’t be able to keep my eyes open.
  4. Immediately do some stretches when you get out of bed. Be gentle on your body, but get the blood moving. If it’s too much, just commit to standing. Do not sit or get back/stay in bed.

If you’re going lark to owl:

  1. Avoid caffeine after about 7pm. It’s easy to think, “I need something to keep me going,” but it will do more harm than good.
  2. Again, get your blood moving. Stand up. Move around.
  3. Be conscientious of others in your household. Just because you are trying to stay up doesn’t mean they want to.
  4. Once you get to the point that you absolutely cannot stay up another second, go to bed. Make note of the time. Come back to it tomorrow.

Have you experimented with your productive times during the day? Are you adamant that the lark is obviously superior? Or are you set in your owly ways? Open up to the other! I dare you! And tell me about it in the comments or on my Facebook page!

 

5 Ways to Keep Going

I am literally squeezing this into the few minutes of free time I have. This week has been nothing but homemade Christmas presents, work, laundry, packing for my family trip next week and freelance deadlines.

So, how can you too keep going despite a to-do list as long as the Mississippi?

1. Find out what times work for you and demand them. I’m up late because I know I am most productive between 8-11. If it means I don’t have a lot of free time in the morning, I accept that.

2. Eat, stay hydrated, and sleep. Keep your health up, even when you think it would be a lot better to double-fist cheeseburgers and fries.

3. Avoid falling into the trap of thinking too much about it. And by “it” I mean all the things you need or want to do. Don’t fall into that abyss of overwhelming stress. Just do it. Ride the momentum of inertia and do, do, do.

4. Laugh a lot. And sing. And hug people. I’ve been watching reruns of Parks and Rec. It helps.

5. Stay in the moment. It’s easy to pummel yourself over what’s happening tomorrow or what you didn’t do yesterday. But instead of wasting your time on stuff you can’t control, pay attention to what’s in your hands.