It’s a loaded word. It means different things to different people. I have always thought of productivity as having the motivation and the efficiency to get tasks done effectively and quickly. However, as I thought more about what productivity means to me and what it means to our society, my perspective started to shift.
In a video called “Single-Tasking is the New Multitasking”, James Hamblin says, “if you asked me the last time I did a thing and just did it and wasn’t also trying to do something else… I wouldn’t be able to tell you.”
These words resonated with me on a whole new level. I want you to ask yourself a similar question…
When was the last time you solely focused on one task?
The older and busier I get, the harder it is for me to focus on one task at a time. This is especially true when I use technology. I started using technology for productivity. I still use it for that very reason, but I wonder if my ability to multi-task with technology actually slows me down and hinders my productivity. Sometimes I find myself using technology tools like Google Docs and Google Slides for the purpose of productivity, but when I am using all of these technology tools at once, it can actually slow me down. The idea of multitasking and pursuing productivity is not only apparent when I use technology, but also in my personal life.
I have always been a multitasker. I like to do multiple things in a short amount of time. I am constantly busy, I have a hard time slowing down, and I have difficulty saying no. I have always thought those were good qualities to have. There is actually a big difference between being busy and being productive, as you can see in the sketch note by John Spencer. As time goes on, I realize that my ability to multitask can actually take away the quality of the task and the completion of the activity.
In March, I ruptured my Achilles tendon. If you need something to slow you down and stop you in your tracks, this is it. Before the injury happened, I remember thinking to myself that I need to slow down because I had too much on my plate. Lo and behold, the injury happened. I had to stop everything. Teaching, extracurricular activities, and my social life all came to a halt. Quickly after I was injured, the pandemic hit, which meant everything else shut down around me too. I was forced to slow down in a way that I’ve never done before. Through that experience, I was able to do one task at a time, at my own pace. No more multitasking needed! I was happier, healthier, and had more energy and motivation in life.
Now that I am back to teaching and taking another class, I am quickly finding that my old habits of multi-tasking and moving at a busy pace are back. I thought the lessons that I learned during my time of slowing down would stick with me today. Unfortunately, I am finding myself at that same point before I got injured, and that’s on the path to burn out.
The idea of productivity and multitasking has been on my mind a lot this week. With assignments due, deadlines coming up, and priorities and commitments in my personal life, I have been busier than ever. I haven’t been slowing down or resting, which has actually hindered my productivity. I am less alert, more tired, and very overwhelmed. This brings me back to the idea of what it means to be productive. I’m realizing that a lot of the expectations that we have for ourselves and others are not sustainable or healthy. Productivity should mean achieving our goals and getting tasks done in ways that allow us to be our best selves. The idea of multitasking is impossible, and our expectations of productivity need to change.
I recently listened to a podcast by Hope and Wade King called, “The New Edu”. They talked all about productivity and completing tasks. One of the ideas they suggest is starting your morning in a way that benefits you. They talk about how introverts and extroverts gain energy in different ways, and if we start our day in a way that suits our personality, it can set us up for success. They also suggest that we “Eat the Frog” by getting the big tasks done first. When we accomplish the most intimidating and time-consuming tasks early on in the day, then we feel less overwhelmed for the remaining tasks. It helps to know that conversations surrounding health and productivity are happening with other educators. Sometimes we all need a reminder to slow down in order to pursue true productivity.
Emily Bonnie, suggests “44 Productivity Hacks to Turn Procrastination Into Action” that fall under four categories: Focus, Save Time, Prioritize, and Get Motivated. Here are some of her suggestions that I want to put into action:
- Write distractions down.
- Delegate whenever possible.
- Pick 3 “Most Important” tasks to complete.
- Break big tasks into bite-sized pieces.
- Stop multitasking.
As you can see, there are many ways for us to boost our productivity without multitasking and adding more to our plate. There are many ways for us to slow down, yet stay productive. I want to make it a priority to stay productive without burning out.
In Emily Bonnie’s list of 44 Productivity Hacks, she also says Quit Typing and “try speech dictation software to get your thoughts down faster”. So that’s exactly what I did this week. I wrote this entire blog post with the speech to text feature on my phone. Productivity at it’s finest!
Moving forward, I want to follow in the footsteps of Emily Bonnie. I want to find new ways to stay productive, yet healthy and happy. So, who’s with me? Let’s remember to Stop Multitasking and Quit Typing.