Quick Tip: Be More Productive By Grouping Tasks
When trying to be more productive, it can be tempting to do many things at once. You may have a great system in place so you know when things are due and how they should be prioritized. So then why is it so difficult to make progress through your list of tasks for the day? One of the main things that you may be missing is the benefit of grouping your tasks. By doing so, you can make your work much easier, transition between tasks more smoothly, and get a lot more done. Here, I will explain why and how.
When we're working on a task, we're in a certain mindset. Think about the different types of tasks you work on. Chances are good that you think a different way when working on each type of task. Just like you're thinking differently when at work vs. at home, you think differently when working on a presentation vs. researching an idea.
While working, we often need to switch between these different mindsets. You're working on a presentation, but you need to research an idea for one of the slides, then you need to create a nice graphic based on that research, and finally you return to figuring out the presentation flow. It's a normal part of work, but it comes at a major cost: shifting your mindset.
Every time you need to shift your mindset, there is a delay. You have to get out of the mindset you were just in, switch to the other mindset, get oriented, think of your plan, and follow through. It's a process that doesn't happen instantly, and doing it a lot means you spend a large portion of time just switching mindsets!
Instead, it's better to consolidate tasks that require a similar mindset, reducing the number of shifts you need to make.
That's where grouping tasks comes in. By limiting the number of times you need to switch mindsets, you can make your work much easier and spend more time actually being productive.
To demonstrate, let's use the same presentation example. When you're making the presentation, you're starting out with the flow and text content. While you're working on that, you realize you need to research something. But wait! That would require a mindset shift. Instead of switching to research mode, you add a comment: "Research X and update this slide." Then, you continue working on the text, all without breaking your workflow.
After you finish with that task, then you go back through and find the parts where you left comments to do research. You research all of the ideas and add the relevant pieces. Then, you go through and add graphics for all of the slides.
By grouping the tasks in this way, you only have to make two shifts: content to research, then research to design! That's much easier on your mind, and has much less of an impact on your productivity than switching between each mindset for every slide.
"OK, that's great, and I understand, but how can I easily figure out how to group my tasks?" Great question! One of the easiest methods is to color code them.
When you're working on your todo list (and you have a good todo list, right?), you should ideally have a way to color code tasks. With my favorite todo list app, Todoist, this can be done by using projects and labels. Projects can be color coded for broad mindsets (e.g., Research, School, Personal), and labels can get more specific (e.g., Writing, Design, Planning).
Whenever you put a task on your todo list, give some brief thought into which mindset you'll be in for that task and mark it appropriately. Then, when deciding which tasks to focus on for the day, try to keep it limited to one color as much as possible. When you can't have just one color, you can at least group tasks of the same color so you're limiting the number of mindset shifts you're making.
On your calendar you can also color code events, and try to keep each day limited to a specific color for that day.
Obviously limiting to one mindset for the day isn't always possible, but paying attention to your todo list and calendar can allow you to at least be more aware of the shifts you're making throughout the day, and hopefully reduce them to some extent!
Reducing the number of mental shifts you need to make throughout the day can help you not only increase your productivity, but also reduce how tired you feel at the end of the day. Try to be more aware of the different mindsets you use throughout the day, and you'll be surprised how good it feels when you can maintain a consistent workflow by putting off shifts until you're done with the task at hand.
Do you struggle with having to shift mindsets constantly? What types of mindsets do you use throughout the day? Let me know in the comments!