I don’t know you, but I’m terrible at managing more things at the same time. There are plenty of articles, books and videos explaining why multitasking is not a good idea. Many research and studies have proved that our brain is not wired for multitasking and that switching context is a costly task for our cognitive mind.
That’s why many productivity experts suggest creating bubbles of focus, in which your attention goes to a single task while you keep all distraction outside. There are many strategies to create a bubble of concentration. Some put all the devices in “flight mode”, others go into a virtual cave. Some close themselves in minimalist rooms, and others just put their headphones on to cut the world out.
Personally, I use a combination of all of those. Unfortunately, creating a bubble of focus is not enough for me. It is as if anything I put my attention on long enough, leaves a halo in my mind. So, when I try to switch to something else, no matter how tight and protected my bubble of focus is, thoughts from previous tasks keep lingering in my mind.
This “halo” creates a big challenge for me. Silencing inner distractions is a lot more complicated than protecting my focus from the external ones. As a result, it takes me ages to find my rhythm when I start a new activity.
This “halo effect” or “tail effect” or whatever we want to call it, is a recent discovery. Looking back at my most productive days, I can see two strategies worth trying.
- Don’t fight it. If I can’t remove a thought from my mind, then fighting against it, won’t make it disappear. I have to deal with it. Understand what I need to do to get it out of my system, and do it. If something is not fully finished, I can’t move to something else, no matter how tight my bubbles are.
- Group similar things. Jumping between different types of activities is the most costly type of switch. I can’t easily alternate meetings and writing time in the same morning. So, I need to set big chunks of time aside for similar activities.
I’ll let you know if it works.
P.S. I just discovered that the “Halo effect” is a cognitive bias and has nothing to do with what I wrote in this post. Ouch.