September 19, 2017
Note From Rochelle
I experience fall as a head-spinning whirlwind of activity. Besides the usual working with clients, writing books, and speaking, I’ve always got a few new projects in the works. I’ll have more information soon on new opportunities for you to learn about writing, imagine new projects, and stay accountable to your writing goals!
Today’s tip features my favorite tool for addressing monkey mind. Enjoy!
Got Monkey Mind? This Tool Will Help
by Rochelle Melander
Jugglers amaze me. They keep multiple items moving at one time, in front of a crowd of fans, and without breaking their focus.
Whether you are a full time writer or an entrepreneur who’s writing a book, you’re probably juggling more than one big project. On top of that, thanks to the recent social media explosion, most of us also blog, tweet, pin, post on Facebook, and more. Add to all of this the other stuff we do in life (exercise, eat, connect, volunteer)—well, no wonder it’s hard to focus on a single task.
Many of us turn to multitasking to get things done. We think that focusing on multiple tasks at once might double or triple our productivity. Wrong!
Let’s start by learning what multitasking really is. When we move back and forth between multiple tasks, psychologists call it “context switching.” Jordan Grafman of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says it’s not multitasking but rapid toggling. According to the authors, “One study showed today’s office worker gets only eleven continuous minutes on a project before interruption. But much worse than that, it takes twenty-five minutes for them to return to the original project after interruption.”
And some of us never do. The authors of The Plateau Effect reported on another study that said after we get interrupted, we move to some other task 40% of the time. If you’re writing a book, that means that almost half the time, after you stop to check that incoming text or email, you’re not going back to working on your book. You’ve moved to another task.
Though many claim to be able to effectively juggle multiple projects at once, they can’t. No one can. Research shows that people who self-define as efficient multitaskers are actually less competent at doing multiple things at once.
New research by Cyrus Foroughi, a PhD candidate out of George Mason University, suggests that small interruptions decrease our ability to write well. In two studies, participants were asked to outline and write an essay. In the first, some were interrupted at regular intervals. In the second, they were interrupted at random times. But the result was the same: those who were interrupted wrote less and scored lower than their peers. Clearly, interruptions make writing more difficult. In addition, interruptions and multitasking lower our performance ability:
+When students received a 2.8 second interruption during a test, their errors doubled. When they received a 4 second interruption, their errors quadrupled.
+Media multitasking—reading a book while watching television—results in poor performance on both tasks.
+Task-switching can lower your IQ an average of 15 points, about the same as if you smoked marijuana or stayed up all night.
The solution, though, is simple: single tasking. Do one thing at a time with as few external disruptions as possible.
Step 1: Divide your day into chunks and then assign a single task to each chunk of time.
Step 2. Unless your task is social networking, during every other task—especially writing—turn off the technology that distracts you from writing. This might be the internet, email, or your regular old phone.
Step 3. Do the one thing. If it’s writing—then choose a single short writing task. It might be writing a scene, drafting a blog post, revising a few paragraphs, or developing a list of article ideas.
Step 4. Set a timer for 10-15 minutes and do the single thing. If it’s writing, then write. When you finish, take a quick break. Give yourself a reward. Then repeat the focus, break, reward pattern until you’ve come to the end of your time chunk. Then take a break and move onto the next task on your schedule.
But what about the crazy ideas and lost tasks that show up while I’m writing?
You may be plagued by brain drama. It often happens to me: random thoughts fly through my brain—tasks to complete and ideas to work on. I’ve learned to gently flick away those thoughts, add them to my to do list, or write them down in an idea journal.
Here’s the thing: it takes practice to focus. Remind yourself that you have time scheduled to do all of the things you’re worrying about and then turn back to your writing. You might have to do this fifty times the first day, but it will get better.
After you complete an entire day of single tasking, check in with yourself. How did that work for you? Did you get more done? Or do you feel better when you have a little more distraction for part of your day? Again, evaluate and revise your life accordingly!
If you need help learning to single task, contact me for a complimentary consultation.