By now, it's become pretty commonly accepted that multitasking is bad. While it's true that trying to do multiple high-concentration tasks at the same time isn't a great idea, there are several opportunities throughout the day during where "double-tasking" can be your friend. By grouping the activities below together, you can add up to four hours of productivity to your day without worrying about damaging your brain.
The key is to pair routine, muscle-memory tasks that don't require much thinking with more challenging ones. Since both tasks are things you would be doing anywayduring your day, you're effectively doubling your time. Here are a few of my favorites:
Learn while you burn
It's sometimes hard to prioritize going to the gym when your schedule is already maxed out, but the health benefits of regular workouts are undeniable. In order to get twice the return on my time, I catch up on video podcasts, online lessons, and sometimes even a guilty TV pleasure while I do cardio. Watching educational content is a great way to keep your mind engaged while you're challenging your body. Between my YouTube, HBO GO, Netflix and Coursera apps, I'm never at a loss for something to watch. This is an especially powerful hack when I'm dreading going to the gym (which, let's face it, is usually!). I won't let myself watch a show I've been looking forward to until I'm on the elliptical or treadmill.
- Daily time commitment: 30 minutes
- Productivity yield: 60 minutes (30 minutes cardio + 30 minutes podcast or television)
Charge up your commute
According to the Census Bureau, the average commute time in the U.S. is 25.4 minutes each way. That means more than 50 minutes that can be dedicated to something besides getting from Point A to Point B. I live in New York City, so the majority of my commute is on the subway. I take advantage of this time to catch up on reading. My tools of choice are my Kindle and the Pocket app on my iPhone. If you drive to work, audiobooks and podcasts are great options that will allow you to keep your focus on the road.
- Daily time commitment: 50 minutes
- Productivity yield: 110 minutes
Solve a Marketing Challenge in the Morning
Some of my best ideas come to me while I'm brushing my teeth, blowdrying my hair or shaving my legs. Why? Because these are mindless tasks that I've performed literally thousands of times, which means I can easily perform them on autopilot while I concentrate on other things in my life. When I was in college, I realized that the time I spent getting ready in the morning could double as study time. As an entrepreneur, I continue to harness this time to help me think about marketing challenges ahead. Whether it's something as small as a social media contest or as big as a new multimillion-dollar campaign, you may be surprised at the aha moments you'll have while getting ready in the morning.
- Daily time commitment: 45 minutes
- Productivity yield: 90 minutes
Tidy up while you talk
One of my favourite time-doubling tips is tidying up while I'm on the phone. From straightening up a desk drawer during a conference call to clearing out your closet while you talk to your cousin, there are countless small tasks you can tackle that don't take your concentration away from the conversation. I talk to my grandmother on the phone every Sunday for about half an hour, and I can always count on that time to tidy up an area in my apartment.
- Daily time commitment: 25 minutes
- Productivity yield: 50 minutes
Catch up on social during T.V. shows
According to eMarketer, U.S. adults spend an average of four hours and 28 minutes watching television each day – yikes! Most entrepreneurs I know clock in way below that average. I love my DVR as much as the next girl, but not all shows are created equal. While some get my undivided attention each week, others are perfect for enjoying while I'm doing other things. (I'm looking at you, "Dance Moms"!) If you find yourself imbibing more than two hours of television per day, try layering in other activities while you watch. Easy tasks that don't steal too much focus away include cleaning out your inbox, replying to personal Facebook messages, making to-do lists and scheduling tweets. It's the perfect way to take the guilt out of a guilty pleasure.
- Daily time commitment: 90 minutes
- Productivity yield: 180 minutes
The five simple modifications above take very little preparation but can lead to incredible results. Thirty minutes learning + 50 minutes reading + 45 minutes ideating + 25 minutes tidying + 90 minutes socializing = four newfound hours. Collectively, that's 20 hours in a week, meaning you can be 50 per cent more productive than most people without even trying!
This article was originally posted in WeWork's digital magazine here.
Brittany Hodak is the co-founder of ZinePak. She has been named to Advertising Age's 40 Under 40 list, Inc.'s 35 Under 35 list, and Billboard's 30 Under 30 list.