I’ve been under the influence of some huge projects at work this month. Projects that are tedious at best. I work with databases and all sorts of data on a daily basis. Sometimes data can be a 500 pound gorilla on your back. Currently I’m moving over 60 specialized user accounts from one server to another. Each one takes about 15 minutes and requires a lot of concentration.
This type of work requires a focused approach. I have found that when I try to multi-task in these situations that I become distracted and tend to lose my place. Once I lose my place I end up having to start from scratch, which adds more time to an already arduous task. Unfortunately phone calls, e-mails, and visitor distractions abound in my workplace. So.. what to do.
I have found that closing my door, turning off e-mail, and letting the phone go to voice mail really helps with this type of task. I get some soft jazz playing in the background, and the minutes tick off smoothly. I still do not like this type of task, but when you optimize the work environment it really helps get the job done.
I work for 48 minutes at a time in this focused manner and then take a 12 minute break. The 12 minute period is the key to making this whole process work. This is the time to get up and stretch and refill the coffee. But it is also a time of communication.
This is the time to answer e-mail, return a phone call, or talk with others in the office. Since I only have a few minutes to get these things done, I’m much more cognizant about how much time I spend doing them. It also helps me to delegate tasks to others.
This is also a time which works well to get background tasks started like data backup, copying files, and software installs. I try to find something that I can start that doesn’t require my attention for at least 48 minutes. This way I’m using my time in a more optimal manner. I spend 48 minutes in a focused approach while something or somebody is completing another one of my tasks.
Liz Strauss, over at Successful Blog had a great idea to tweak the system…
How’s this for an idea? Spend every other 12 minutes connecting with people. Call a client to check on a project. Email a friend to make sure that he’s okay. Write a thank you that you’ve been setting aside. Then spend 48 on a project.
This type of communication idea has helped me think outside the box a little. Instead of just focusing on work communication, I might spend some time focusing on other people’s needs. Just spending a few minutes on a thank-you card, or a quick call to see how a co-worker is doing can really change the focus of a day and make an unpleasant task go faster.
Optitasking at work really helps. I try to spend at least an hour or two each day in this focused approach. When the Big Ugly Stuff comes, I may set aside half a day to this work style. It really works well on the tedious stuff and helps you be able to say… “I’ve accomplished something” at the end of the day.