It was in the middle of a job interview about three years ago that I had the epiphany. “Oh, yes,” I jabbered on with my winning smile and assertion. “I am a die hard multi-tasker. I’m a pro at keeping things in the air.” The hiring manager shot out of nowhere, “Great. But does anything ever land?” Multitaksing was a lie. That deceptive little term – once worn as a badge of honor, splayed over cover letters and fiercely upheld as the ultimate in productivity – had a far more sinister reality of which that ol’ smarty pants HR manager cut straight to the core. The truth of the term can be summed up by a phrase I recall my grandmother chanting in reference to a family member that shall remain nameless: “A Jack of all trades, but the master of none.” For me, “multi-tasking” has a dirty little secret – NOTHING ever got done. Just a gaggle of open projects serving the illusion of busy but, in fact, leaves the tasker feeling overwhelmed while the task remains incomplete. Enter: The 45/15 Rule: The Holy Grail of SUCCESSFUL multiproject management.
If you are a human being living and working in this century, it is guaranteed that you have a million things going on, all of which needing to be done, say, nowish? I discovered this tip about 2 years ago while skimming some self-helpy book, possibly authored by Tim Ferris (don’t quote me). It’s wildly easy and requires only a smidge of self discipline.
Step 1: Write your To-Do list. Sounds simple enough, right? In fact, you probably already have one on a sticky note somewhere or collated in your head. Just get it on paper. Now, give yourself an hour and do this:
45 Minutes: ON – Essentially, you are dead to the world for 45 cold hard minutes. Silence your phone, logout of Facebook, close your door, and WORK. On ONE thing. Set a timer for yourself, tell your roommate not to bother you, tell the hubs to take the kids and/or dog to the park. Your only task for 45 measly minutos is to give that resume, blog post, brainstorm, spreadsheet, or laundry basket your UN-DI-VI-DED attention.
15 Minutes: OFF – Go pee, eat a snack, snuggle the cat, return that phone call, retweet or hit some like buttons. But only for 15 minutes. Then move on to another task or project (or continue the same one to completion) for another 45 minutes, and so one.
Seriously. This tip is guaranteed to change your life. You’re welcome.