There are countless studies you can point to if you want to be assured that multitasking is the key to productivity or feel justified in feeling it’s antithetical to getting anything done well. It’s a great topic for finding that yes, there are statistics that will back you up no matter your position. You just have to search hard enough.
For myself I understand that multitasking is often a necessary evil. As I type this, for instance, I’ve also got Slack open on the other monitor so I can track a conversation related to something I’m working on and there are multiple tabs open in Chrome that I can bounce between. In fact, here’s a screenshot of my main external monitor, which is what I work in most of the day.
You can see I have, in order:
- Three Gmail instances open, my personal one and two work-related inboxes
- Digg Reader, which I use for RSS reading and monitoring
- Pocket, which is where I save stories for reading or usage later
- Two WordPress admin pages, my personal blog and that of CinematicSlant
- Two Google Drive instances, my personal account and one for a project
- A couple Google Sheets, including the editorial calendar for my personal blogs
- A Google Doc where I keep blog post ideas
I’m also listening to Spotify and, as I said, I have Slack open to one of the three team chatspaces I belong to.
That’s a lot. But here’s how that usually goes:
I check email throughout the day but try to do so in specific times. Not that I only check it between 9 and 9:30 am or anything, but I work to not be beholden to it and answer its every beckoning call. If something important comes in, sure, that’s why I have desktop notifications enabled. Otherwise I’ll turn to it only when I can plow through a few messages and do something to take any action items out of the inbox. Sometimes that means adding an item to my bullet journal, sometimes it might be saving a story to Pocket.
Digg Reader is the same way. I’m actually more addicted to RSS than I am email, though, and will find myself bouncing over there throughout the day and in the middle of other tasks to see what’s new. Usually I share stories directly to Pocket instead of acting on them immediately, as doing so allows me to use Pocket as a sort of triage station, evaluating more fully what I want to do with that story. So Digg Reader is just a middle man.
Pocket then becomes the way station the stories I’m reading almost always have to pass through. Whether they’re coming from Digg Reader or is something I’ve found on Twitter or elsewhere (if I’m on desktop I’ll click and use the Pocket bookmarklet, if I’m on mobile I can save directly from Twitter or other apps), this is usually where I’ll read them more fully. It’s essential.
The links to those stories usually then make it over to one of the text documents you see over on the far right. I have Textedit open nearly all day and is where I jot things down when I’m just sort of half-thinking about them. I’ll draft blog posts there and then copy/paste into a Google Doc. Or I’ll write an email there and copy/paste it into Gmail. What I like about this arrangement is that having a document off to the side means I can be looking at the story or other material I’m writing about in the browser window but see what I’m writing, referring back to the source frequently.
Tweetdeck is how I use Twitter, mostly because of the columns capability. With so many followers it’s important for me to be able to separate out various Twitter Lists and otherwise divide up the experience.
Lately I’ve been posting directly from Google Docs to WordPress, using the integration between the two. WordPress is the blog software I’ve been using for upwards of 10 years now and is the best the market has to offer. Other tools like Squarespace, Wix and others will work for other people and that’s fine but to me WordPress is the top of the line. I recently upgraded to the Premium hosted plan on WordPress.com and have zero regrets about that decision.
I like having Google Docs be the archive of everything, something I can turn to and use in any way I see fit later on. Over the years I’ve tried a number of arrangements, including blog editors like MarsEdit, but Google Docs is free and works pretty well, especially now that it speaks directly to WordPress. And of course it’s essential for collaboration with others as I can share documents with anyone. I’ve used Google Docs since it acquired Writely years and years ago, both personally and professionally. It’s great not just for drafting but Sheets allows me to manage ed cals and more.
There are other sites I’ll cycle between in that last tab, the one that has Facebook in it here. I’ll switch it over to LinkedIn, Evernote, ToDoIst or something else as the need arises. Basically that last tab, and any that follow on the right, are open for whatever is needed at that moment.
Between all those, though, you can see how my day travels and the path material I’m interested in reading and potentially using as the basis of a blog post takes. That’s why those tabs are laid out like that, because they roughly map out my productivity routine.
How about you? Do you arrange your tabs or other software in a similar manner? How do you maximize the flow to get things done efficiently and effectively?