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Unlocking productivity: how to avoid multitasking and get things done

Trying to do three or four things at once can mean that your mind is distracted and you might never finish anything. Instead try the “hot 30 technique”, where you focus on one task only for 30 minutes

    Diane Nolan's avatar

    Diane Nolan

    Head of communications at The Global Undergraduate Awards.
    April 25 2024
    Student in study hall, smiling into the camera


    When you’re trying to do multiple tasks at once, it can feel like you are being productive. But flitting between tasks is a recipe for disaster. Successfully completing a task often comes when taking one task at a time. 

    No matter how tempting multitasking might be, avoid it. Instead, divide everything you need to do into assigned time frames throughout the day, using a productivity method called the “Hot 30”. This is where you split each task into “a hot 30 minutes” and see how much of you can complete.

    The Hot 30 – your productivity toolkit 

    To maximise your focus and efficiency, you can follow these steps: 

    1. Set clear goals 

    Before each 30-minute session, define what you aim to accomplish. Clear goals will keep you focused and on track throughout your session.

    2. Eliminate distractions 

    Minimise interruptions by silencing notifications, putting away your phone, closing unnecessary tabs or apps, setting yourself up in a distraction-free workspace and making sure you have everything you need to complete your task. 

    3. Don’t expect perfection 

    The pursuit of perfection can result in procrastination. Improving little by little is the goal. Making progress and getting things done, even if they’re not perfect, is sometimes better than not doing anything at all. 

    4. Prioritise 

    Identify the most important tasks that need to be completed first and then write them in order, with those that are not urgent towards the end of the list.

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    5. Break tasks down 

    Break larger tasks into smaller, manageable subtasks that can be completed within the time frame. This can help you see the progress that you are making at the end of each 30-minute session.

    For example, when writing an essay, break it down into smaller tasks: research the topic for an hour, write your essay plan for 30 minutes, write the introduction in 30 minutes and so on, breaking down each section of the essay into manageable chunks. Some of these tasks might take longer, but at least you know you’ll have started to bring your essay together with this technique. 

    6. Stay focused 

    During each session, concentrate solely on the task at hand. The aim is to avoid multitasking and working on multiple things at once. Make sure that you have a set aim for this chunk of time and have all the relevant resources open and ready to refer to. 

    7. Review progress 

    At the end of your work session, take a moment to reflect on what you have accomplished. 

    8. Stay flexible 

    Be willing to adapt your schedule and priorities as needed. If a task requires more than one chunk, allocate additional time accordingly.

    Each distraction, whether it’s social media, deadlines or other tasks, chips away at your progress. This can leave you trapped in a cycle of unfinished tasks and unmet goals. By allowing yourself to get side-tracked, you’re losing valuable time that could be invested in meaningful work. 

    However, by scheduling in targeted times for work, you regain control over your time and focus, allowing you to channel your energy into deep, uninterrupted work sessions that take you closer to your objectives. 

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