Ever been working on a project, but had trouble focusing because other things kept popping into your mind?
- What should I make for that potluck on Sunday?
- Don’t I have a dentist appointment sometime next week?
- Looks like it might rain tomorrow. Got to mow the grass when I get home tonight.
This is a form of multitasking, but it’s comprised of one main task being interrupted by reminders of tasks that you can’t actually work on.
There’s a very simple technique that I use to lighten the mental load and get back to what I’m supposed to be working on: I send a one-sentence message from my work e‑mail to my home e‑mail. “Buy cocoa and make brownies for Sunday.” “Check dentist appointment and reschedule if necessary.” “Cut grass after work.” It takes seconds, and then the intruding thought is gone. Gone, but not forgotten. There’s now a written record, something that can be researched, scheduled, done on my own time.
No computer access? No problem. Scribble a note on a scrap of paper, such as the back of a receipt, and stuff it into your pocket until you get home.
Whatever system of unloading ideas that you use, the few seconds you invest will save time and effort by quieting the churn in your mind, allowing you to work more productively.