Context switching is sucking up 80% of your time if you are trying to multi-task 5 things.

Tell me if this sounds familiar…

You’re on a Zoom call with your team but as soon as the conversation becomes less relevant to you, you jump over to your inbox, check your phone, or jump back to the excel sheet you were working on….all while keeping one ear on what’s being said!

Context switching, task switching, multitasking, there are many names for it but whatever you want to call it you are taxing your valuable mental resources by doing it. While the immediate costs might feel small, the compounding impact on your focus is staggering.

Apple has recognized this societal problem so now iOS 15 provides your ‘focus status’ to your friends.

Reducing the amount of context switching in your day requires a holistic approach to the way you work. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

Context switching happens when your schedule is either too full (too many things to work on) or too empty (not enough structure to stay focused). Find the balance that allows you to focus on one task at a time and stay on it until it’s done. The goal is to change the habit pattern of the mind by continuing to stay on what you are working on. It may take 20 minutes, it may take 2 hours, but the key is to stay on it.

Batch and time-block your schedule to create clearer focus boundaries and use your focus status to let your friends and coworkers know that you are currently in a focused mode.

To design a schedule for sustained attention rather than context switching follows a few rules:

  • Set large chunks of focused flow state time for more demanding projects (3 hours+)

  • Set realistic time slots for emails, meetings, and administrative work

  • Know your priorities before the week has started by using lead measures (Covey 4DX) this way you know the one real-work task (which is an easily measurable metric) that is going to move the ball down the field

Another way to keep yourself and your team on the same page are theme days like Motivation Monday, Admin Tuesdays, Wellness Wednesday, or Financial Fridays. Pick that themes that line up with culture’s goals.

Whichever way you structure it, you want to offload your decision-making about which tasks for each day matter most so you can stay focused on your most important work and thus reach your wildly important goals for the quarter.

When you single-task (i.e. focus on just one thing at a time), you’re more productive, less stressed, and even more creative. This allows you to be completely present with a task. Having that ‘depth of focus’ provides breakthroughs, insights, additional clarity, and overall a better work product.

Airplane Mode! The most important feature!

Remove as many distractions as possible. Your work environment is full of distractions that can cause you to fall into lots of context switching.

When you hit a block of time that’s available for deep focus, take a few seconds to remove as many distractions as possible. This means putting your phone on airplane mode, closing your open chats like Slack and WhatsApp on your laptop, closing your emails, and letting your coworkers and family (for the home office people) know they must let you work for a few hours.

Mindlessly scrolling social media is slowly removing you from the life and lifestyle you have one chance at achieving in this lifetime. Scrolling through social media truly is death by 1,000 cuts. It’s that serious. It sucks your attention away slowly and consistently. Your phone will show you how many hours you spend on Instagram. It’s another full-time job. Most people are on it 40 hours a week. Check where you are at in the screen time section of your phone’s settings. Audit this and try to keep it under 10 hours a week.

Next, build mental anchors for when you do switch tasks. When it comes time to jump from writing emails to making phone calls, for example, you’ll need something powerful.

A mental anchor is any repeated behavior that signals to your mind that it’s time to switch gears. This could mean grabbing a cup of coffee, taking your vitamins, having a 5-minute pause, stretching or listening to music for 5 minutes.

The action itself doesn’t matter as much as what it symbolizes.

The mental anchor is more about the intention of the task switch than anything else. That’s why being mindful and present during the task switch is important. It’s something you pause with, appreciate, and commemorate.

Master the end-of-day shift from work mode to relaxation mode 

Finally, context and task switching doesn’t just happen during the workday. If you’re unable to disconnect at the end of the day, you won’t be able to give your mind the rest it needs to focus deeply the next day.

The author of “Deep Work” Cal Newport has a few strategies for helping you master the shift from work to non-work mode.

  1. Record your progress. Start by acknowledging what you accomplished–hours worked, tasks completed, time spent on Focus Work. Your RescueTime dashboard will show you all of these stats down to the minute.

  2. Organize any uncompleted tasks. Put everything in a place so it won’t pull at your attention. This could mean adding to your to-do list, updating your calendar, or setting reminders.

  3. Glance at the week ahead. Take a second to make sure there’s nothing big on the horizon you’re forgetting. The goal is to convince yourself that you don’t need to ‘check in’ later when you’re trying to relax.

  4. Acknowledge that the day is over. Do something to signal that you’re finished for the day. This could be closing your laptop and putting it away or even saying the words ‘shutdown complete’. Think of this as another mental anchor.

You can also unwind with the help of loved ones and being present with them, relaxing with supplements and herbs like Kava, Magnesium, or GABA. At the end of the day realize there is a time for doing and there is a time for being (non-doing).

Take that later half of the day to focus on just being so that you give your mind relaxation time to go to the sauna, get a massage, go to the spa, or just do whatever you like to do to feel really good and balance out the stress from the day.

Staying focused and not distracted alongside with the actions you take will determine how much you get done each quarter and if your wildly important goals are reached.

The Level Up Mastermind is looking for Real Estate Developers, Architects, Lawyers, and Marketers to join the elite team of 30 high powered members for Q1 2022. Do you have wildly important goals? Join us here.