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Multi-Tasking Your Morning – 15 Steps to Boost Productivity Before You Start Your Day

Multi-Tasking Your Morning – 15 Steps to Boost Productivity Before You Start Your Day

It’s amazing how a morning can suck minutes or even hours away from your day before you even open your eyes completely.Fortunately, it’s easy to get time back in the morning – all you need to do is get organized and utilize some new efficiencies. Of course, before you can establish new patterns, you need to figure out what patterns you’ve already established – and that is the first step to a properly multi-tasked morning.
Step 1: Establish Current RoutineBefore you can make any changes to your current routine, you need to know what it is. Start by taking notice of how you spend your time. Do you reset the alarm a few times? Do you sit in the kitchen and wait for the coffee to brew? Jot down the steps you take and the times that you actually do these things.
Step 2: Decide What’s Most ImportantWhat’s the point of being efficient if you’re not able to enjoy the time you’re saving. If there is something in your morning routine that you feel you simply can’t live without, it needs to be identified and considered sacred. For example, if you really need to snooze at least once in the morning, that ten minute sleep snack can be preserved. Likewise the cup of coffee and headline grazing.
Step 3: Make a ListNow that you know what you’re doing, make a list of the things that must be done in the morning. It may be as simple as: wake up, bathroom, coffee, shower, dressed, check emails, and leave for work. Some lists are much more complicated with exercise, dog walking and meditation thrown in.
Step 4: Consider OverlapIf you wash your hair in the morning and you have to let it sit in curlers for a few minutes, why not use that few minutes for something else in your routine? For example, rather than brushing your teeth and flossing before your shower, switch and shower first. Then, with your hair set, brush and floss. You just saved five minutes!
Step 5: Eliminate SnoozeIf your morning routine includes setting snooze at least once, you’re adding ten minutes onto your day. It’s likely you’ve already added the extra time to the beginning of day – setting the alarm at 5:50 instead of 6, for example, to accommodate the extra time. If not, either stop the snooze habit or adjust your morning wake-up time to allow it. Thinking about waking up earlier just to hit snooze takes most of the fun out of it anyhow.
Step 6: Automate Your CoffeeIf you’re a coffee drinker, splurge in a programmable coffeemaker. (Usually this isn’t a big splurge – less than $30.) Then, set up the grounds, set the timer and make it a new routine before bed. With a programmable coffee pot, your coffee will be ready and waiting when you wake up or when you get out of the shower – whichever pleases you most.
Step 7: Find Simple Breakfast ItemsWhile it’s fun to cook yourself breakfast in the morning and even more fun to grab food on the way to work, you’re actually not saving yourself any time by stopping in a drive through. It usually takes at least five minutes to get a drive-through order and then you have to find time to eat it while commuting. Simple breakfast items that can be cooked in the toaster or microwave take only a few minutes and can be munched before you walk out the door or while you drive.
Step 8: Buy Travel Cups
Rather than sipping and savoring your coffee in the morning, take it with you. Making coffee at home (in your new programmable coffee pot!) and then taking it with you will not only save you plenty of money compared to the local coffee shop, but it will also save you serious amounts of time as well.
That’s another five to ten minutes added back to your morning commute. There are disposable travel cups available in the grocery store complete with lids, much like the coffee shop’s version, or you can go green with a few insulated cups that you bring home and wash.
Step 9: Shave in the Shower
The shower is a great place to save time if you’re willing to break lifetime routines. For example, shaving in the shower can cut out a few extra minutes over shaving after the shower. Buy a special shaving mirror for the shower and keep your soap handy. Lather up and shave toward the end of your shower, rinse and you’re ready! Ladies can do the same, only they might save some extra time by shaving their legs while they wait a few minutes for the conditioner to set after a shampoo.
Step 10: Stop Shampooing
If you have medium to long hair, you don’t need to wash your hair every day. In fact, washing your hair every day can actually make it overly dry and lead to split ends. You can save yourself some time every other morning by simply shampooing every other day. On the days you don’t shampoo, you can pin your hair up and keep it dry or rinse it with warm water.
Step 11: Stop Showering
For most of us a shower in the morning is a staple. But does it have to be? You would save a substantial amount of time in the morning if you stopped showering before you leave for work. Of course that means you’ll need to shower at another point in your day – perhaps after your lunch workout or in the evenings before bed.
Step 12: Stop Your Paper Subscription
Normally you might linger ten minutes or so over the paper while you eat your breakfast or drink your coffee. It would be far better, however, to stop your paper subscription and simply read the news on your device or listen to the news of the world on the radio on your way to work. This is true multitasking – sipping coffee, driving to work and getting all of your news at the same time.
Step 13: Eliminate Driving
This is a tossup for many individuals, but if you’re able to carpool to work or ride in on a train, you gain back a huge amount of time that you’d normally have to spend focused on the road. If you’re riding on the train, for example, you can read the headlines, check your emails, get your horoscope, eat your breakfast and sip the coffee you brought from home all before you arrive at work.
Step 14: Go Mobile
If you’re still using an alarm clock to wake up and your desktop to check emails, you’re not using the latest timesaving technology. Use your phone as your alarm clock. Then, when it goes off, snatch it up to turn off the alarm and go ahead and skim through your emails before you actually even get out of bed. You’ll save the time booting your computer if you normally check emails in the morning, and you’ll use those first few minutes of wake up time more productively.
Step 15: Mesh Schedules
If you’re sharing a bathroom, all of your efficiencies are completely wasted if your roommate or partner isn’t on something of a schedule, too. Be very clear about the times that you need the bathroom and if the times overlap between the two of you, rearrange your schedule, adjust your wake-up time or simply flip a coin to make it all work. Otherwise it’s all for naught!
(Photo credit: Girl Opens Curtains via Shutterstock)

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Study of the Day: Media Multitaskers May Have Sharper Senses

Study of the Day: Media Multitaskers May Have Sharper Senses
Those who juggle several devices at the same time are more adept at integrating information from multiple senses, new research shows.
PROBLEM: Media multitasking gets a bum rap. Previous experiments in the lab and in real-life situations have demonstrated poorer performance during cognitive tests involving task switching, selective attention, and working memory. But is there also an upside to using multiple gadgets at once?
METHODOLOGY: The Chinese University of Hong Kong researchers Kelvin Lui and Alan Wong recruited frequent and light media multitaskers, aged 19-28 years, to explore the differences in their tendency and ability to capture information from seemingly irrelevant sources. They asked the subjects to complete questionnaires on their media habits and take part in a visual-search task that occasionally required audio-visual synchronization.
RESULTS: The participants who simultaneously use several devices the most tended to be more efficient at multisensory integration. That is, the frequent multitaskers performed better than the light multitaskers in the visual-search task when the audio cue was present and worse when it was absent.
CONCLUSION: Experienced media multitaskers who routinely take in information from numerous sources are better at integrating information from multiple senses as well.
SOURCE: The full study, "Does Media Multi-Tasking Always Hurt? A Positive Correlation Between Multitasking and Multisensory Integration," is published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

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What Multitasking Does To Our Brains

What Multitasking Does To Our Brains
We've all heard it hundreds of times: to work efficiently we have to single task. No multitasking. And yet, we let it slip. We end up eating lunch in front of the TV with our laptop open. We browse Twitter and Facebook whilst sending emails, and probably chatting in Google+ too. If we should be focusing on just one assignment, blog post, or proposal...why the heck is it so hard to focus?
Why we multitask in the first place: It makes us feel goodTo understand why we always fall into the habit of multitasking, when we know we shouldn't, I found some very interesting studies. The answer is in fact quite simple:
[People who multitask] are not being more productive—they just feel more emotionally satisfied from their work.
This is what researcher Zhen Wang mentions in a recent study on multitasking. She mentioned that if we study with our books open, watch TV at the same time and text friends every so often, we get a great feeling of fulfillment. We are getting all these things done at once, and we feel incredibly efficient.
Unfortunately, exactly the opposite is the case. Students who engaged heavily in multitasking activities felt great, but their results were much worse than that of people who didn't multitask.
Another problem a study found, is that multitaskers seem very efficient from the outside, so we want to be like them. We see someone who can juggle emailing, doing phone calls and writing a blogpost on the side and feel "wow", that is incredible. I want to be able to do that too!
So very unknowingly we put a lot of pressure onto ourselves to juggle more and more tasks. When really, it only seemingly makes us more productive. The daily output as Wang found, only decreases though.
What is going on in our brains when we multitask?The interesting part is that our brains can't multitask at all. If we have lunch, 5 Facebook chat windows open and also try to send off an email, it isn't that our brain focuses on all these activities at the same time.
Instead, multitasking splits the brain. It creates something researchers have called "spotlights". So all your brain is doing is to frantically switch between the activity of eating, to writing an email, to answering chat conversations.
In the image below, you can see the different brain activities for various tasks that the brain switches between. It jumps back and forth as you focus on each task for a few seconds at a time:
What's more is that Clifford Nass, a researcher at Stanford assumed that those who multitask heavily will nonetheless develop some other outstanding skills. He thought that they will be amazing at 1. filtering information, 2. being very fast at switching between the tasks and 3. keeping a high working memory.
He found that none of these 3 points are true:
We were absolutely shocked. We all lost our bets. It turns out multitaskers are terrible at every aspect of multitasking.
People who multitask a lot are in fact a lot worse at filtering irrelevant information and also perform significantly worse at switching between task, compared to singletaskers.
Now most studies all point towards the fact that multitasking is very bad for us. We get less productive and skills like filtering out irrelevant information decline. Personally I had the same results without ever reading the above studies before. I put some things in place, especially with working online, to win my productivity back and ban multitasking from my workflow once and for all.
How I developed a singletasking workflow online by adding a twist to well-known techniquesBefore I learnt about any of the above, I had my own struggles with multitasking. I would have 2 separate email inboxes open, TweetDeck at the same time, as well as Facebook and an instant messaging tool.
The thing was that I felt very much on top of things, hitting "command + tab" all the time to check if I missed anything in one of the windows. With every tab switch it felt as my head would get bigger, whilst I would get less and less done at the same time. Both my brain and my work was rather scattered.
I had to stop this and I had to stop it immediately to work more productively on Buffer. To solve my multitasking madness, there were in fact 3 key changes I made to develop a full-on single tasking focus:

1. The single browser tab habit
One strategy I put in place is something I call singletab browsing. I would limit myself to only keep 1 browser tab open whenever I am working. That way I had to really prioritize what the most important task was that I had to work on.
To explain in some more detail. Some key tasks I am juggling are email support via our HelpScout inbox, Tweets for our @bufferapp account, blogposts for the Buffer blog here and emails from my personal inbox.
Before I would have all these things open at the same time. Now I work through them one by one. Only my HelpScout inbox is open. Then only TweetDeck is open to reply to any Tweets. Then I move on to close everything and only open Word to start writing. And finally I move to my personal email inbox, closing everything else again.

2. Doing this is only possible with one improvement I put in place:

3. The evening planning routine.
Every evening, I would sit down and jot down what I would want to get done the next day. That's a very common technique, and probably something that you have done before also. It's a simple to do list, that you learn to keep in elementary school.There was only a slight problem with to do lists. I wouldn't stick to them.
So I added a twist to it. Besides jotting down what I wanted to do, I would add a brief brainstorm with Joel. Doing this seemed like a small change, but made a huge difference.
When we sat down for just 10 minutes every evening, to briefly walk through the tasks of the next day, everything changed in terms of productivity. The reason was that instead of just writing tasks down, I was forced to also think through the tasks and explain them to Joel. "I want to write this article on this type of content, because of this inspiration I had. I will structure it like this.." and so forth.The to do list I jotted down didn't change, but it felt as if I had done half the work of it all in my head already. The next day, all I had to do is look at the task and get it done.
If you keep a to do list, but rarely stick to it, try the same and find a colleague, spouse or friend to brainstorm 10 minutes every evening. You can do this for each other and frankly, it becomes a lot of fun to meet up for this quick brainstorm every day.

4. Change work location at least once a day
This is something that inevitably has made me more productive and focused on singletasking. We read many times that we have to work on building a comfortable work space to focus. What I found was this: I had to create many of them.
To regain focus after finishing one task and moving on to the next one, just spending 5 minutes as a break, getting a drink or similar didn't work. Nor did closing the laptop for 5 minutes or standing up from my desk. I had to physically move from one place to another.
So most times, I work out of my apartment for the first half of the day, then I have a list of coffeeshops I can go to, or the lounge area in our apartment building.
I completely understand that moving around isn't possible for everyone due to their work setup. There are some very creative workarounds some companies have come up with though, that might help you here. Valve, dubbed "The bossless company", gives every employee a desk mounted on wheels, so they can change location every so often during the day.

Quick last fact: listening to music whilst working isn't multitaskingIn case you were wondering whether now you also have to give up listening to music to be more productive, rest assured, that isn't the case, Stanford Professor Clifford Nass mentions:
"In the case of music, it's a little different. We have a special part of our brain for music, so we can listen to music while we do other things."
Personally, I am very excited to challenge my own workflows and see how I can exchange my existing routines for more effective ones. Singletasking has had one of the most powerful effects more me. This has worked both for results for Buffer and my personal projects. Of course, this only works if grouped with other habits that set you up for a successful singletasking day.
What Multitasking Does To Our Brains | Buffer
Leo Widrich is the co-founder of Buffer, a smarter way to share on Twitter and Facebook. Leo writes more posts on efficiency and customer happiness over on the Buffer blog. Hit him up on Twitter @LeoWid anytime; he is a super nice guy.
Image remixed from Vladgrin (Shutterstock).

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