It seems the fall-back for many professionals is the old multitasking trick: stash some effort here, juggle a couple things at once over there, bring your laptop to the meeting and skim emails while you listen in with the other ear. These tricks are nothing new for professionals wearing multiple hats, and while it feels smart to try and knock out several things at once, studies actually suggest that multitasking takes a heavy toll on our productivity. Switching gears multiple times during a work session tends to do more harm than good, especially if you’re alternating between two different types of tasks.
For instance, the Harvard Business Review found that it took professionals nearly 20 minutes, on average, to re-focus after stopping to address an email. There’s also evidence that multitasking increases anxiety, zaps our ability to complete tasks in a timely manner, and actually adds time to project spans. Whichever way you slice it, it seems like multitasking is unproductive.
The 4 Types of Worker
In reality, it seems the most productive work style is the one that mirrors your personality. Red Thread suggests there are four main worker types — The Prioritizer, The Planner, The Arranger, and The Visualizer — each with their own uniquely effective work style.
The Prioritizer tends to be data driven, goal-oriented, and logical. Prioritizers often prefer to work under the gun on time-sensitive goals. If you place yourself in this camp, you might find that assigning yourself specific deadlines (down to the hour) to be helpful in productively completing work. Timer tools like DeskTime can be particularly helpful for Prioritizers who get anxious while watching the clock.
The Arranger, on the other hand, thrives in environments shared with other people. They like to bounce ideas off of colleagues and almost always need a second opinion to move forward. If you identify with this type, you might be most productive when working in an open office environment, ideally with a whiteboard close by so you can chart out ideas.
Similar to the Arranger, the Visualizer also benefits from having space to chart out a plan of action. Because physical clarity tends to yield mental clarity for Visualizers, a nice, wide, tidy work space with pen and paper handy might offer the best room to make headway on projects.
Perhaps the most head-down type of all, the Planner thrives when working from a detailed, sequential list of tasks, ticking off accomplishments as she goes. Planners do well when they have a clear end goal in sight, and tend to flounder with open-ended projects. If this is you, consider gathering all your relevant research in one place first before diving into the actual work — ideally with one centralized, digital program like Evernote — to avoid distractions. And physically, clean private spaces seem to best serve planners, along digital productivity tools for keeping on task.
Manage Your Time, Boost YTime Management
But the real key to productivity might not be rooted in a physical space at all, but rather in how we organize our time. The Muse argues that it’s all about taking breaks. Better known by some specialists as The Pomodoro Technique, this method suggests that the optimum workflow starts by working for 52 minutes, and then taking 17 minutes off. The 17 minute brain break offers just enough time to step away from the project, mentally recharge, then dive back in clear-headed to work without interruptions.
The exact minute count doesn’t seem to be hard and fast, and whether you’re working for 50 minutes or over an hour, the real trick seems to be the breaks in between. Shutting down the brain (and all surrounding technology) for a good chunk of time lets the brain recharge, refocus and get back to work faster. As for what to do during the break? Take a walk around the office, read a book, grab a snack, or chat with a co-worker. Do so, and you’ll be more likely to knock projects out faster when you get back to the grind.
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