Multi-Tasking Never Really Works…

Multi-Tasking Never Really Works…


A while back when I worked for a personal growth and development company I learned about a technique for getting things done.  And trust me there was a lot to get done when you are in that business.  You’re never really going to get it all done so you carry it all around with you hoping you’ll get around to it…one day….maybe some day….but not really today.

One of the techniques my coach taught me in preparing my seminars and work for the day, was to work in 20 minute increments.  He called it the Multiple Put Down Method.  Literally…you are putting down what is in front of you multiple times until you get it done.  Along the vein of what I was sharing about this morning regarding what you put your attention on, this is one tip that continues to make a difference for me.

Here it is: work on a task in 20-minute increments, with absolute focus, and then put it down, over and over, until you’re done. In this case, the gold is in the details, so please follow them exactly:

  • Alert your brain that a task is coming that will require its recall, creativity, and brilliance (yes, your brain is brilliant–thank your parents). Then let some time pass–a day, perhaps.
  • When you’re ready to start, set a timer for 20 minutes, such as the stopwatch feature on an iPhone. Set your cell phone to airplane mode, turn off your email, and silence all other distractions. Then hit start on the timer.
  • During the 20 minutes, you must focus on that task without interruption. And unless the building burns down, do nothing but work on that task until the timer goes off. You may hit the wall, but keep going. The vast majority of people find they can work on that task “in the zone” until the timer goes off.
  • After 20 minutes, you have a choice: keep working or take a break. If you keep working, reset the timer to 20 minutes and go through the process again, without interruption until the next 20 minutes are up. If you decide to take a break, it can be short (such as refilling your coffee cup), medium (returning a phone call) or long (going into a meeting, or working out).

That’s it. You pick it up and put down over and over, hence the name “Multiple Put Down.” Some data, my own experience, and reports from the thousands of people who have learned the technique is that you are much more efficient–often finishing a task in 30-50% of the time it would take if you worked on it in one sitting. Even better, the quality of the work is far superior than if you followed your mother’s advice of “start early and just get it done.” There are other benefits, too: less stress, reduced frustration, and a general feeling of being brilliant. Multiple Put Down will save you hours.

There are several advantages to the Multiple Put Down technique. The first is that your brain is brilliant at running processes in the background, but is awful at multitasking. While you’re driving to work, in the shower or answering email, your brain will be working in the background on the task, so that when you’re ready, it’ll drain through your fingers, into your computer or notepad, for about 20 minutes. The break allows your brain to restock the supply of brilliance. Each time you go through the process is a “productivity unit.”

Here are some tasks that are perfectly suited for Multiple Put Down: writing a report, preparing a pitch for a client or boss, figuring out how to solve a tough problem.  It took me about 30 productivity units to get this blog back up and running after my little technology learning experience.

Here’s my challenge to you: right now, take a task that’s nagging at you and use Multiple Put Down on it. I hope you’ll share how it goes by posting a comment below.

(Some of the material here is pulled from Dave Logan’s article on time management.  You can also read about some of this in the Three Laws of Performance book.  Great stuff.  Graduates of the Landmark Forum will adore it.) 


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