These days everyone is quick to brag about their ability to multitask. Interview two dozen candidates for an open position and you will undoubtedly hear every one of them tell you how well they multitask. This 21st-century buzzword has become a badge of honor for people both personally and professionally. It’s become a race to see how many things we can do simultaneously without our heads exploding. Unfortunately, multitasking simply does not work and should be avoided. Why? Because the more you try to spread your limited attention across more and more items, the less you actually accomplish. Multitasking not only creates waste and reduces quality, but it’s also a productivity and efficiency killer.
Rather than multitasking, what we should strive for is the ability to completely focus on one task until completion. The better we get at sharpening and limiting our focus, the more our productivity, accuracy and efficiency will skyrocket. In fact, if you really want to supercharge your productivity, we recommend combining two fantastic productivity tools: Kanban boards and The Pomodoro Technique.
Kanban is a Japanese manufacturing system in which instructional cards are used to track the flow of components along a production line. Although it was born out of manufacturing, the Kanban method can be applied to just about any process or goal to organize and track the flow of work. Kanban boards are visual depictions of work as it’s being done with columns like “To Do,” “In-Process,” and “Done.” They can be physical boards (think Post-Its on a wall) or virtual (websites like http://trello.com). Whether it’s physical or virtual, a Kanban board manages workflow by limiting the amount of cards in any given column. This causes workers/users to focus their attention on one or two tasks at a time; making them extremely efficient and productive. You can use a Kanban board for any goal you want to reach or work you want to complete. Want to lose 25 pounds? Use a Kanban board. Need to help your team collaborate more efficiently? Use a Kanban board. The possibilities are truly endless.
The Pomodoro Technique (http://pomodorotechnique.com/) is a simple time-management method in which you complete work in 25-minute increments called “pomodoros.” During a pomodoro, you choose a task to work on and literally set a timer for a 25-minute work session (here’s a great online pomodoro timer http://tomato-timer.com/). The rule is you can only focus on that specific task for the entire 25 minutes. That means no answering the phone, responding to emails or checking Facebook. You just put your head down and work until the pomodoro timer goes off. Then, no matter where you are within the task, you stop and take a 5-minute break. Go stretch your legs, grab a coffee or a snack, then you’re ready to set another pomodoro timer and go back to work. Some tasks will require multiple pomodoros to complete and that’s okay! Setting a timer isn’t about you beating the clock, it’s about you focusing for short bursts so you get more accomplished.
Combining Kanban boards and pomodoros is easy – just use your Kanban board to prioritize your work and select a task, then, use as many pomodoros as it takes to get that task done. Remember – you must take a short break after each pomodoro (and a longer break after every four). By combining Kanban boards and pomodoros you say goodbye to chaotic, day-wasting multitasking and embrace efficiency, productivity and focus. You will accomplish so much more in less time and be a happier human all the way around.