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I have a singletasking tip for you, and it’s an important one: Work like you’re on vacation. Before you type up the smart-aleck response, “You mean don’t work at all?” let me explain. I mean work like you’re taking a working vacation. If you’re a full-time remote worker, you probably know the kind of focused working vacation I mean. Sometimes, you can pull one off without your employer even being aware that you’ve taken a vacation at all, if you’re experienced in the art.
The key to a successful working holiday? Good time management and prioritization skills. Having fun and distracting things, settings and activities all around you has a way of throwing what needs doing and what can be put off into sharp relief. The result, for me at least, is a kind of highly motivated tunnel vision that has me blowing through high-priority tasks in half the time I would normally take.
Since you’re not actually always on vacation, how do you replicate the effect in order to trigger task triage? The solution is to bring back the motivation, if not the exotic locales.
Fill Your Day With Extra-Curricular Activities
When planning out your work week, add in as many fun, after-work activities as you can manage. This might mean some personal blogging, joining a book club that meets regularly, participating in regular Twitter chat groups, or playing recreational league sports (I’ve just signed up for dodgeball, which should be interesting).
Not only will crowding weekdays with fun, social or active events and activities cut down on artificial work task exaggeration (you know that it shouldn’t take you three hours to finish that weekly status report, for instance), it’ll help you stay happy and healthy, too.
Knock Off Early
Take your usual workday end-time, and subtract two hours from that. No matter what the status of your work at that time (emergency priority stuff obviously excluded), you’re forbidden from doing anything else, professionally speaking. If all goes well, the perception of being under a time crunch will result in faster, more efficient work habits, and you’ll have no choice but to leave the less important stuff for another day.
Plan Day Trips
If an imaginary time crunch alone isn’t doing it for you, try peppering your week with mini-vacations. These could be things as simple as a shopping trip, or as complicated as a late afternoon jaunt to the zoo with the kids.
My own personal favorite mini-vacation is a trip to the Royal Ontario Museum here in Toronto, where the best time to visit is early in the morning to midday on weekdays, since you get to avoid the tourist crowd. I’m only halfway through the ancient Greek pottery exhibit, so it’s sure to motivate me to stay focused on the essential in order to give myself some extra leisure time.
Welcome (and Plan for) Personal Life Interruptions
If you have a home office, this might be something that’s unavoidable anyway, but blocking off a good chunk of floating time for unscheduled interruptions from your family and friends is not only a wise work/life balance move, but could help quiet professional distractions.
By giving domestic concerns a higher priority on your to-do list, you’ll have to create room by bumping low-priority work tasks, which will hopefully result in having less to think about during those hours when you are in dedicated work mode.
Working should never feel like a chore, even when you’re not treating it like a vacation, but these tips might help stave off the inevitable creep of bad habits, procrastination, boredom and, worst of all, unmanageable multitasking, which we sometimes fall into just for the sake of feeling busy. Filling your schedule with leisure activities gives you the benefit of feeling busy without having to generate extra work for yourself. It also helps give you an excuse to ignore low-priority distractions and keep a sharp focus on the important things. Plus, who doesn’t love a working vacation?
Share your singletasking tips in the comments.
Image by flickr user m o d e