STOP PRETENDING YOU CAN MULTI-TASK, AND OTHER ADVENTURES IN FREELANCE DISTRACTION

Stop multi-tasking, start compartmentalising

This blog post has taken me the best part of a week to write. Must be something pretty special, right? World’s best blog post, bar none. Except that it isn’t.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think it’s the world’s worst by a long shot (I just found myself clicking slack-jawed through a 20-page slideshow about This Dog Was Almost Dead With Mange But You Won’t Believe How She Looks Now!) but there’s no way it should’ve taken me a week.

The reason? I was f*cking about. Seriously.

Even now, as I’m writing this with renewed determination™, I keep getting derailed – so if I can save you from doing the same and wasting countless hours, at least my ultra-distractible mood will have been good for something.

And who knows? Maybe I’ll take my own advice

STOP PRETENDING YOU CAN MULTI-TASK

Multi-tasking – the woman-specific myth that just won’t die.

Women are great at multitasking! It’s the only way to get things done! Why do one thing when you can do three? And sure, multitasking is a great way to do certain things – online shopping, looking after the kids, jotting down items on your to-do list, cleaning, getting ready.

Multi-tasking is great for what I like to call ‘brain bees’ – annoying, persistent little thoughts and tasks that are buzzing around your head in need of attention. What it’s not good for – at all – is focused work that requires concentration and mental energy. Writing, editing, customer service, accounts, proof-reading (God, definitely not proof-reading) – all those tasks need your full concentration, and you can’t give that if you’re being inundated with outside stimulus.

Time to stop multi-tasking and start compartmentalising instead. While it might feel like you should be getting 10 things done now, it’s best to get one thing done well and leave the rest of your to-do list items ’til later.

SHUT THE 40 TABS YOU HAVE OPEN – AND ALL THOSE FILES, TOO

One of my biggest flaws as a freelancer who spends most of her working day on the laptop is having waaaay too many tabs open on my browser. I have my pinned tabs: Gmail, Facebook, Tweetdeck, Submittable and Buffer up at the top left – those are the things I want to cast an eye over regularly.

Then there’s usually a tab of news that I’ve been reading over breakfast, plus a couple of tabs from interesting stuff I saw shared on social media. After breakfast (or during breakfast – because HELLO MULTI-TASKING) I schedule some social media, so there are loads of tabs open from that – plus a couple more where I’ve been hunting for images (boost that social engagement, yo!).

After that, I decide to write my blog post for the week. RESEARCH! Got to love a bit of research. Off to Google – another tab – then cmd + click on ALL THE LINKS. All of them. Yes, even that one.

Stop it. Close the tabs. First off, it’s bad for your computer. Second, it’s bad for your brain. If you’re flooded with information every time you blink away from the file you’re working in (and if you’re like me, it’s almost a mindless compulsion to do just that), it’s going to be almost impossible to keep focused.

SWITCH OFF SOCIAL MEDIA

There’s nothing guaranteed to get me clicking out of the file I’m supposed to be working on and back into social media space like the ping of Tweetdeck. I don’t know what it is – validation? Any excuse to multi-task?

I know people are going to be clicking and retweeting stuff – after all, I’ve scheduled a load of things over breakfast. So why do I feel the need to go and check out which account it’s on, and who it was, and what they’ve said or done? It’ll all be there later.

Either close your social media down completely or, if it’s a pinned tab like mine, switch off the audio alerts and navigate away from the window. You don’t need the visual distraction of watching Facebook update or Tweetdeck roll away with loads of interesting new stuff that you just have to have a quick peek at.

MAKE A TO-DO LIST AND STICK TO IT

It ain’t new and it ain’t revolutionary, but it is tried and tested, and it does work – the humble To-Do List. Nothing comes close to equalling it – whether it’s in paper form, in a note file somewhere or on an app on your phone.

Start your day with a To-Do List. Jot down everything you can think of. Feel free to multi-task while you’re doing it – go ahead, have that one on me. Stick all those tasks on there, and break down the big ones with bullet points so you can see all the parts of the process. Got a blog post to write? Include the steps you’re going to take to get that written: 1) research, 2) find image, 3) draft post, 4) final post, 5) upload and publish/schedule, 6) schedule social media shares.

To-Do Lists are not only good for making you stick to the job you’re supposed to be doing; they’re a great way to boost your confidence as the day goes on – nothing better than crossing out job after job, and redrafting that list halfway through into a smaller, neater list (my secret favourite thing!).

For added accountability, set yourself time goals – I did the same this morning. It was 9.44am, and I gave myself until 10am to schedule tweets for a particular account. Got it done, had a cuppa while I was doing it. #OMGmultitasking

BE 100% THERE

When you’re having days – or, like me, weeks – where you’re easily distracted and spending hours doing not much at all, it’s important to remember why you decided to go freelance in the first place.

Being your own boss is great – and comes with some pretty amazing benefits – but it also means that sometimes you have to crack the whip at your worst self: the one who’s maybe not pulling her weight like she should be doing.

If you’re f*cking around – and you know you are – give yourself a bit of a mental shake and ask yourself who’s benefitting from your down-time. Is it you, sitting at your desk longer than you need to instead of being productive or taking time out? I think we all know the answer to that.

If you’re working – whether that’s at your desk, dressed for the day, or in bed, hustling it in your PJs – be there 100%. Whether you’re facing down a six-hour stretch or you’ve got 60 minutes to burst through, give it your all and remember that you’re doing this for you.

And there we are: blog-post written!

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what are your biggest self-sabotage habits? how do you make sure you’re 100% there?

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Lorrie

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