Context Switching Kills Productivity. Here's How to Beat It.
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Have you ever gone to check your email for a minute, and found yourself distracted?
You look up and suddenly 30, 45, or even 60 minutes have flown by?
That’s the danger of something called "Context Switching", which is our tendency to switch from one unrelated task to another.
Context Switching is Killing Your Productivity.
Let’s take our email example from above. If you’re anything like me, here’s what actually happens:
- You open up your email and start reviewing the new message (3 minutes)
- You think about what you want to write back (5 minutes)
- You realize you need information in another software so you login (5 minutes)
- You copy/paste the information and start writing back (10 minutes)
- You review the email, edit it, and finally send (10 minutes)
- You might as well glance at social media while you’re at it (10 minutes)
- You struggle to get back into the creative “zone of genius” (15 minutes)
A quick check of your email has turned into a 58-minute distraction.
I eliminate this costly blunder by working with a Virtual Assistant (VA).
Here's how we work together in 4 simple steps:
Step 1: Audit Distractions
Before you can transition any work to a virtual assistant, it’s important to understand what you’re distracted by.
Take two weeks, and pay very close attention to your schedule to understand when you are most distracted, by what, and how often.
Awareness is the first step to offloading any work.
Some common examples include:
- Customer support tickets
- People seeking advice
- Invoice requests
- Podcast invites
Keep a running tally each week to make sure you’re identifying all of your distractions. Then, choose the distractions that come up most frequently or take you away from your work for the longest amount of time.
Step 2: Record Process Videos & Documentation
Once you have a list of tasks that you’d like to transition, you need to make sure the instructions for handling those tasks are crystal clear.
Remember, your VA won't always have the background to understand what they’re solving & why.
So, I recommend recording a video where you walk through every single step, and explain exactly what you’re doing in great detail.
Share these with a few people who have no context & see if they can complete the tasks you teach on video.
Next, upload your videos to a Notion page with additional written instructions and templates.
The most common instructions:
- Email templates to respond to prospects and customers
- Username & passwords for accounts they'll access
- Links to other resources to support their work
I create an email template for every single response my VA will use. That means they will stay on brand, on message, and on tone.
Step 3: Move To a Trigger-Based System
After recording your videos and written instructions in Notion, I highly recommend spending about 1-2 weeks working directly with your VA to make sure they understand the tasks and solutions.
Once you’re confident that you have good traction, introduce a trigger system.
A trigger system for me looks like this:
- I grant my VA access to a new email inbox
- My VA logs each email into a spreadsheet with context
- I select the intended action from a drop-down with triggers
- I select any related template that should be used for the situation
- My VA sees the trigger and takes appropriate action 2x per day (AM and PM)
Here’s an example of what my trigger-based worksheet looks like:
If you want a free copy of this document for use with your VA, grab it here.
Step 4: Review & Improve Weekly
The last part of a successful VA/Entrepreneur relationship is a weekly review.
During our weekly review, we look to answer a few questions:
What’s going well that no longer needs my trigger?
I’ve often found that my VA will say, “I totally understand how and when to handle this, so I won’t log these anymore, because I’m on it!”
Where did any mistakes occur?
Sometimes, your VA will make a mistake, and that’s totally ok! Mistakes happen and should be expected. The best thing you can do is talk through it and identify why it happened and an action plan to solve.
What else can we transition?
If you’re continuing to audit your weeks (you should) you’ll discover more and more to transition. Continue creating process videos and documents, templates, and triggers.
After several months, you will have transitioned nearly all of your administrative work, and what’s left will be client work and creative time.
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