Workers who have many things to do are often unproductive for reasons that go beyond the multitasking -Wish to do several things at once and not finish any- or procrastination-leave for the last moment a task that you know you'll have to face sooner or later. It happens when you have something very important to do but postpone it while doing other less urgent tasks. Also when you feel guilty for having stopped answering an email that you know would have taken you only ten minutes. Or when you have to buy another post-it package because it's faster than looking for the one you bought last week. These small acts that harm your main objectives are considered self-sabotaging, a tendency to keep doing things the same as always, even though we know it is not the most efficient.
The problem with these patterns is that they constantly feed back: you always have a lot to do (or you feel that way) and you do not have time to stop to reflect and find more efficient ways to develop your work. "You usually think you need a huge amount of mental energy to plan, make decisions and carry out an organized system, but in the long run, it's much more productive," explains clinical psychologist Alice Boyes. One of the mental mechanisms responsible for maintaining this way of facing work is what psychologists call tunnel vision. It is an ambiguous term that also applies to situations such as anxiety attacks, where the patient perceives how their angle of vision is getting smaller and smaller.
But it also has to do with attention and with the ability to perceive the stimuli of our environment. "It is relatively frequent that, when we are in a state marked psychophysiological stress, we pay attention exclusively to that which is related to the task, threat or main concern that concerns us," says clinical psychologist Alex Figueroba. This is one of the phenomena responsible for workers continuing tirelessly forward without stopping to assess priorities. When we are busy and stressed, we choose to work, by default, on what has the closest deadline, although it is not the most important. Stress causes our focus of attention to be reduced to the task in which we are engaged. "In the end it happens that we discovered ourselves spending hours working on tasks that were not so essential," explains Alice Boyes.
This situation becomes the whiting that bites the tail when you continue doing the same as always without thinking flexibly. So, pyou overlook the easy solutions to do things because you prefer to continue making them as they have worked so far, even if it implies more resources. For example, imagine that you could have help to keep your house clean but you have the feeling that you do not have time to find someone you trust and explain your way of working. So, you postpone it, week after week, doing the work yourself, although reallocating the time spent in a single cleaning session would be enough to hire someone.
- What to do to not always remain the same
One of the solutions to this situation has to do with the need to disconnect to have good ideas and to be able to concentrate again. "The pauses in which you allow your mind to wander are the main solution to the problem of tunnel vision," says Alice Boyes. "Even short breaks can allow you to get out of too narrow a thought." It is necessary to take a step back and choose to do the most important work, although it is not the most urgent. And focus on doing the tasks that you have on your list before starting with the needs of other partners.
In addition, solutions for recurring problems are often simple if viewed with perspective. It is necessary to invest time in creating systems that resolve common problematic situations, such as always have a mobile phone charger at work, set a day a week to make the purchase (instead of going three times to buy what you need at that time) Or create a list of usual clothes to put in your suitcase if you travel a lot for work. These three examples of day to day are easy to understand, just need to move them to the work environment. Investing time in designing this type of systems will save much more in the future.
The rule of two minutes. It is very simple: if the next task can be done in two minutes or less -who says two, says three, five or ten-, do it now, even if it is not urgent or priority. Take it off. This rule appears in the book Getting things done by guru David Allen and is part of one of the most popular activities management methods. It helps you cross out tasks from your list and start by doing simple things and pick up rhythm. Remember: if doing homework takes less time than planning, do it; If not, flatten it.
Finished is better than perfect. Insisting on improving something can lead you to stagnate. It is more advisable that you leave several tasks at 80% than focus on finishing one at 100%. The also labor psychologist Elisa Sánchez warns not to succumb to the Parkinson's Law, which says that "all work is delayed indefinitely until completing all the time available for its completion." That is, do not spend a whole afternoon doing a task that you could do in two hours if you only had two hours.