I know it sounds crazy, but there are times when you should not take on additional work. There's the prevalent thought that most of us grew up on including myself that you always need to work hard and do extra work. In my previous post, What is Personal Kanban, I mentioned a rule of personal Kanban, limit your work in progress, where you manage your work load in a manner that enables you to perform in an optimal state.
I remember when there was a time where the skill of multi-tasking was highly respected. These days the opposite is true; single-tasking is the smarter way to work. Numerous scientific studies have proven how multi-tasking makes it harder for your mind to perform. It is mentally taxing, adds unneeded stress, and is inefficient when it comes to managing your daily finite amount of energy. Instead, I recommend focusing on one task at a time. This will not delay you in being able to complete a bunch of tasks. When you focus on one task at a time, your undivided attention will make it possible for to complete the task better and quicker than if you were multi-tasking. The personal Kanban framework can help you with managing a set of tasks and its limit your work in progress rule will help you with determining the order in which your tasks need your attention.
Avoid Brain Jam
It is important to give your brain time to rest, because if you were constantly working and trying to take on more tasks at one time, your performance will suffer. Picture your brain like a free flowing highway where cars are able to drive around the speed limit. Now more cars can fit on this road, but if more of the spaces are filled up with additional cars, eventually everyone slows down and a traffic jam becomes possible. When a traffic jam takes place, the highway is not operating at optimal capacity. This is just like your brain when you take on too many tasks at once. We don't want your brain to be a traffic jam; we want your brain having enough mental energy to get things done. Personal Kanban can lay out in front of you all your tasks. This is important because, by seeing a big picture of all your tasks, you can more easily figure out which ones you can work on.
What is on your plate
I mentioned in my previous post the use of labels in personal Kanban to show the status of a particular task. The in progress label is a key one for me in that it can quickly show me what is currently on my plate. I can then see if I have free bandwidth to work on more tasks or just stick to my current set of tasks. It takes practice, but over time, you will figure out how to limit your work and be productive.