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Multitasking Doesn’t Work. Use This 100-Year-Old Method to Get Stuff Done. Essay

Everyone wants to get more done in the shortest amount of time possible. Unfortunately, multitasking is limited to a small number of tasks. You can’t attend to an urgent phone call while you prepare an equally important report, because both of these tasks require focus. Most people switch between two equally important tasks to get them both done at the same time, but that doesn’t work well either.

Have you ever got caught on a call, working on some emails, when the person on the other line asks, "what do you think?," and you didn't hear a word he or she said because you're busy writing "important" emails. Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.

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The human brain can only focus on one important task at a time, and usually, such functions utilize the full extent of our mental abilities. When we switch our focus from one task to another, the change can disrupt the flow of thoughts and force them in a different direction. It takes our brains some time to realign, and the constant switching can become confusing after some time and compromise the quality of our work. 

The concept is similar to the focus of a camera lens. Even the best cameras and lenses on the market don't focus immediately after they’re moved from one position to another. If you keep switching from position to position repeatedly, you’ll end up compromising the quality of the pictures. The more efficient strategy is to take all the pictures you need from one position before moving to the next.

I know you've run into issues such as this snapping pics of your morning latte art for Instagram, so don't act coy.

Simple strategy, effective results

Experts recommend that you focus entirely on one task before moving on to the next one. In 1918, a successful businessman and productivity consultant named Ivy Lee introduced a method to increase productivity. In his plans, he asked executives to do this:

  1. Make a list of six important tasks for tomorrow at the end of each work day. 
  2. Prioritize them based on their importance. 
  3. The next day, focus on the first task on the list.
  4. Work until the first task is complete before moving on.
  5. Complete all tasks on the list in the same manner and repeat the process for the next day.

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The six important task list strategy might sound simple, but it helps you stay focused, get work done faster and increases the quality of your efforts because you can give that task all of your focus. You don’t have to pay the switching costs your brain incurs, and the result will be more productivity and less stress.

I've implemented this strategy for the past few weeks, and have seen an increase in my output, feel more organized and more focused (essentially, much less scattered).

Plus, if you execute this method, you'll like totally have better Instagram images, which means more followers, which means you'll have way more friends, and be way more famous, and totally live a totally amazing life. OMG. Yay! (And that's the end of sarcastic valley girl voice.)

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