I have this one teensy flaw (no comments, please), and it’s that, well—I’m just going to say it. I have the attention span of a cat chasing a laser pointer.
I’m famous for having hundreds of ideas in my head and projects on the go. To me, a bright shiny object is always the first thing I gravitate towards. And yes, I can’t deny that has been extremely advantageous to me in the marketing industry.
When I’m being a multi-tasking machine, the high is real. Shit gets done. Ideas get fast-tracked, my energy is high, customers are happy. But there’s a dark secret that no Type A, laser chasing, multitasker has ever told you—the lows are undeniably mentally breaking.
When your brain is tuned to high for so long, it’s inevitable that burnout will follow, and for me it often manifests as feeling inadequate, restless at my job and unhappy with myself and others for not picking up my slack. I can be a task burning machine one day, and a complete hot mess who hates my job the next.
I need a solution that evens out the highs and lows, would still allow me to be agile, but also gives me the ability to do get multiple things done quickly without the inevitable burnout.
The answer came to me in a little cube (more on that later), and a concept called single tasking.
What is single tasking?
Single tasking is the practice of focusing solely on one task until completion. It is a learned habit that requires you to remove interruptions and digital distractions, allowing you to completely focus your energy on one detail.
And here’s the deal clincher. Single tasking actually elevates the quality and end result of the project. Yep, you’ll produce better work. So, enough talk about it already, let’s get started. Who’s with me?
Step 1. Organize large projects into small bite-sized tasks.
Let’s say you’re working on a new blog. Split that into tiny tasks, for example: Research keywords, find images, write outline, write 300 words. Write down all the steps that would result in one finished project.
Step 2. Give yourself 20 uninterrupted minutes.
Like, actually. This means turning off all devices, email, chat apps and social media. Don’t panic, it’s only 20 minutes, no one will die.
Step 3. Look at your list and grab one bite-sized task.
Let’s go. You have 20 minutes to get that task done. Don’t look up, don’t move, don’t talk to anyone, don’t check Slack. Nothing. Focus purely on that task and only that task. At the end of that 20 minutes, cross one thing off the list. Keyword research. Done.
Step 4. Give yourself permission to be messy.
I laugh as I write this because I’m the worst at this one. But, would you rather get it done or have it hanging around your multitasking neck, weighing you down for the next two weeks? A (little) messy, completed single tasking project is better than a pile of never finished projects stressing you out and ruining your mojo. This is your permission to be a little messy. It’ll be okay. No, better than okay. I promise.
Step 5. Recharge and repeat.
When your 20 minutes are up, they’re up. Push your chair back from your desk and take a 5-10 minute break. Make a coffee, play with your cat, say hello to your boss, check your social (see, I told you no one would die). When your break is up, back you go for another 20 minute sesh. Repeat.
Bonus step. Set a firm deadline.
Look, I know you. I AM you. You’re going to do three tasks on that list and then switch to another project. Nope, not good enough. Set these tiny tasks to a firm deadline for the entire project. I don’t trust you. Write it in your calendar.
How to leverage single tasking to make you a better marketer.
Marketing encompasses a wide variety of skills and tasks. You might need to answer emails one second, write a social media strategy the next, find time to give feedback to a designer, or run reports for your boss, all in one day. There are a lot of moving parts, and people.
That’s why, by creating structured 20 minute single tasking time slots, you will actually enable yourself to do each of those things better. A focused 20 minutes to clean out your inbox is much more productive than answering emails as they come in. And your strategies? They will become much more clear and perceptive than anything you can write by jumping in and out between other tasks and distractions.
Yes, this makes you a smarter marketer. Not only will the quality of your work improve, but it will be accompanied by that absolute glorious feeling of accomplishment.
You know what else will improve? Your sanity. The highs and horrible lows of being a frantic, stressed, multitasking cat with a laser pointer will be significantly reduced.
Oh, and you know that cube I was talking about. They’ve actually made a tool that will keep your furry little paws on the goal. It’s called a cube timer, and they go for around $15 on Amazon. This little thing simply starts timing when you flip it on its side, you can use it to time your single tasks and your breaks.
So, my challenge to you, my multitasking marketing friends, is to give this single tasking thing a try. Give it a legit run for one week, and let me know if your productivity, focus and results improve.
If not, I’ll buy you a laser pointer.