Splat Thinking — having multiple things to do but be more productive & creative because of it
I’ve always been more productive & creative when I have multiple things to do, which will feel counter intuitive to some people. I never understood why this was the case until in my 20’s I took the time to think about it and gave the way I work a name. Then in 2018 I heard about something called Slow Motion Multi-Tasking.
So what is Slow Motion Multi Tasking?
Slow-motion multitasking is when we have several projects in progress at the same time, and we move from one to the other and back again as the mood takes us or the situation demands — Tim Harford (Economist & Journalist)
Here is a great TED talk about this topic by the man himself!
But back to my story— I’ve been doing a version of Slow Motion Multi Tasking naturally since I was a teenager & enjoying the results. Then when I starting working in the field of L&D & became more aware of what I was doing I started trying to codify it, to see if it could help others — I called it Splat Thinking.
So how does Splat Thinking work (more on the name later)
- It’s the act of actively planning to do multiple things even if you don’t need to
- It’s the act of chopping and changing from one thing to another.
- It’s about not being afraid to STOP! what you are doing if you get stuck or hit a bit of a roadblock, and start or finish something else you were working on. And if you haven’t got multiple projects on, that something else can be unrelated to work.
What does it look like in practice? Well, simply, everyday I would look at what I need to achieve, prioritise my work and say, for example — today I want to focus on these 3 tasks, then work on those 3 things, pulling and dropping them from my splat cloud (more on that later, its coming I promise).
I also don’t believe you should ever just focus on one subject for the whole day even if you have a deadline to hit on the subject. You need to find something to break up the work. It could be doing some work on a personal project, going for a walk, calling to your family or friends or if you’re working from home picking up your guitar and get some creativity flowing. It might sound like you are wasting your time, but trust me you are not, you will come back to the task at hand with a refreshed mind, a new point of view and your quality of work will likely increase.
You might feel uncomfortable stopping what you are doing, especially if you have a deadline to hit. If people have a deadline that is tight you tend to see that they will focus on just that one thing — well slow motion multi tasking and the science behind it suggests that is the worst thing for you to do to complete the work to the best of your ability and in time.
Speaking of science, why does it work? When you focus or work on something else, your subconscious mind (which processes information completely differently & works in a more abstract way) will still be working over what you were previously working on without you even realising it.
When it thinks it has the answer it gets pushed into your conscious mind — this is how sudden ideas or realisations happen or what you might call a EUREKA moment.
Even if you don’t have that Eureka moment when you come back to the work you will come back with a refreshed mind for that topic.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been working on something or doing something fun when the answer to the problem from an earlier task comes to me. I will then drop what I’m doing temporarily, go back to the earlier task, work on that with a fresh mind for 20–30 mins before coming back to the task at hand with a renewed fresh mind on that subject. This is something Albert Einstein himself did to attain his Eureka moment.
If you are stuck on a problem or can’t complete the task at hand, STOP! Don’t get hung up on this one task, throw it back into your splat cloud and pull out something else. Let the sub-conscience have a go, you won’t even be aware its happening and that’s the beauty of it, just have the confidence to drop it and move on to something else in the meantime. If it’s your only task for the day have the confidence to STOP working and do something for you, it’s not procrastinating, it’s not a waste of time, it could be the answer to your problems. If the subconscious doesn’t throw out an answer, when you come back to it after a coffee or whatever, you’ll still be looking at it with a fresh mind, fresh eyes, fresh perspective and you may be able to get past the roadblock that was there before.
It’s all about teaching your brain how to do this & this is where the splat cloud comes in. Why do I call it a splat cloud — for me it’s a huge amount of information in no particular order, flying around your brain waiting to be processed. Picturing and visualising the splat cloud, will help adjust your brain into this way of working — pulling, dropping, starting and stopping different tasks and will help you engage different parts of your brain which will view problems through a different lens.
My splat cloud floats just above my head at all times. Visualising a hand pulling out the next task you are going to tackle and putting tasks you’re tired of back into the cloud helps you train your brain into this way of thinking and helps engage other parts of the brain. If you picture all the tasks you are working on floating around in your splat cloud then this will engage your sub-conscience to work on them in the background whilst you’re working on something else.
The brain is a fascinating piece of equipment, each part designed to look after different emotions, tasks, activities, specialising in one function. Therefore engaging different parts of the brain to look at problems from their unique perspective may help you solve the problem or enhance the task at hand.
Eventually you won’t even think about the cloud and will have no need to visualise it. This way of working will become natural to you and you will be able to comfortably pick up & drop tasks at will, producing a higher quality of work than you ever have before. You will also be able to manage your time more effectively in a much more relaxed manner, leading you to be more happy and engaged at work.
This isn’t something I believe you can switch on & off as you please — it needs to be a complete change in the way you work, always planning to have multiple tasks, work related or otherwise — but if you do, you might just find that you rarely feel overwhelmed, under pressure or stuck ever again.