Friday, 26 September 2014

Single-tasking by Cavan Scott

When I was a kid I loved The Generation Game  and knew all the words to Life Is The Name of the Game off by heart. Still do in fact, as my daughters will testify after they've stopped cringing with embarrassment every time I sing it.

Here's a little reminder for you:

My favourite game was Spinning Plates, you know, the one where you have to keep crockery whizzing around on long poles. It always looked so easy when the expert did it, but as soon as Brucie sent in the contestants? Well, they were anything but a smashing success!

As a full-time writer, I feel like I'm always spinning plates. With so many projects on the go I often feel like one of those poor Generation Gamers, running from pillar to post to stop everything from crashing around my ears.

I've always prided myself of being a good multi-tasker. It goes back to being a magazine editor. Every day was a juggling act. But recently, I've asked myself if multi-tasking is such a good idea. It all comes from reading The Power of Less by Leo Babauta, a handy little time-management book. One concept really spoke to me - that of single-tasking.

It's something I've been trying this month. It basically involves cutting out all distractions and focusing on one thing at a time.

Usually, when I'm working on something, I have my email on, my messenger app running, twitter in the corner and a 1001 other distractions in the background. It doesn't mean I'm always checking them, but the fact they're even there can be enough to put me off what I'm doing. They're all bonging away at me, or flashing their icons, letting me know that messages are waiting.

And once I know there's a message there, I'm doomed. Even if I'm not checking my email, I'll want to check my email. If I'm leaving messenger alone, I'm wondering who's messaged. My mind isn't on the task at hand any more. After all, the message might be THE MOST IMPORTANT MESSAGE IN THE WORLD!!!!!

Ahem, sorry.

So, I've turned all the notifications off and am trying to only check emails at least once an hour, ideally even less like that. If I can, I tell myself I'm not going to check my messages for an entire morning - although I get jumpy after a couple of hours.

Some days it's got so difficult not to have a quick look that I've turned the modem off in the kitchen to stop me just firing up the app for a second. If I want to look I have to get up and wander downstairs to plug it back in again, enough time to tell myself off!

And it's worked. I'm in the middle of a hellishly busy period and I'm getting through it, task by task, all by only spinning one plate at a time.

Of course another challenge awaits today. I have a self-imposed deadline of 5pm for a task and so I'm going to post this and then not check back to see if there are any comments until after I'm done.

Am I going to manage it? Well, if you leave a comment and I reply before 5pm, I give you permission to slap me around the head with a wet kipper the next time we bump into each other.

See you at 5:01!


Cavan Scott is the author of over 60 books and audio dramas including the Sunday Times Bestseller, Who-ology: The Official Doctor Who Miscellany, co-written with Mark Wright.

He's written for Doctor WhoSkylandersJudge Dredd, Angry Birds, Adventure Tim and Warhammer 40,000 among others. He also writes Roger the Dodger and Bananaman for The Beano as well as books for reluctant readers of all ages.

Cavan's website
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Sue Purkiss said...

Wet kipper at the ready! Good luck!

Joan Lennon said...

So ... hard ... to ... do ...

C.J.Busby said...

Good luck with the single-tasking. How did we get to this place though, as a society? Where checking emails only once every couple of hours seems like being marooned on a desert island?! No wonder the kids have attention spans of approximately thirty seconds!

Cavan Scott said...

Absolutely! What was that Neil Gaiman said about being a professional email answerer?

Becca McCallum said...

Can you imagine only checking email once a week? I can't!