This is part 2 of The Multi-Focus Maverick Series. This series is all about how to split up your time effectively so that you can focus on many things and still make progress on your goals. Check out part 1 here.
In the last installment of this series, we talked about what it means to be in focus mode. Focus mode is where you focus intensely on one thing only until you lose interest. It’s when the bulk of your tangible progress gets made. We also looked at the difference between multi-focus and multitasking.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at productive multitasking, otherwise known as “scanning”.
Scanning mode is exactly what it sounds like: free time to work on whatever you please.
Scanning mode has two main purposes:
- To synthesize ideas and try out new things: this includes exploring, brainstorming, and researching anything new or old that has piqued your curiosity. This time can be used to determine whether you care enough about an interest to pursue it more seriously at some point. It can also be used to determine the shape that that project might take.
- To work on low-priority projects and activities: For me this includes everything from responding to emails to tweaking design elements on my sidebar. I also spend this time working on projects that are not yet major priorities but will be in the future. For example, right now I’m focused the book I’m writing, but once that’s done, I’m going to be working on a Bored to Death spec script. Occasionally I’ll spend my scanning time brainstorming plot ideas for my script, even though it’s not a main priority right now.
When in scanning mode, multitask as much as you like
Yup, go for it. Have all the ADD attacks you like, check your email to your heart’s content. That’s what scanning time is for, so don’t feel guilty.
Set an end point for your scanning time
Okay, the one rule- the only really important rule, is that you must set an end point for your scanning time. Give yourself 20 minutes or an hour and then get back to focus mode. Scanning time is a perfect activity for breaks between spurts of focus. That’s how I like to use them.
As a general rule, you want to make sure that your focus time exceeds your scanning time, because focus mode is where the tangible progress happens.
Exception: when you’re between projects
Some multipotentialites will work on one or two projects intensely and then reach the end. At that point, instead of jumping straight into a new project, they will remain in scanning mode for a while until they decide what the next big project(s) will be.
If you’re in between projects, then spend as much time as you like in scanning mode. But if you do have long term projects on the go, be careful that your scanning time does not take over your day.
- There is a switch in your head. You are always in one of two modes: focus mode or scanning mode. There’s no in between.
- Focus mode is time spent working on 1 goal only.
- Focus mode lasts until you get bored. Work till you lose interest and then switch to another project till you lose interest in that.
- Work in spurts.
- Scanning mode is used for multitasking, exploring new interests, synthesizing and working on low-priority projects.
- Scanning mode works well for breaks between spurts of focus.
- Set a time limit and don’t let your scanning time exceed your focus time.
- Exception: if you’re between projects, feel free to scan away until you’ve decided on your next big project(s).
How do you like to spend your scanning time? What challenges have you come across when working in either focus mode or scanning mode?