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Brilliant way Young Henrys founder boosts productivity at work

Young Henry's founders Oscar McMahon, Dan Hampton and Richard Adamson. Image: Yahoo Finance

The New Investors video series brought to you by Yahoo Finance reveals the secrets of the most successful entrepreneurs and business people in Australia today. This is the first episode of the second season.

We’ve all been there: it’s minutes from deadline, leaving the office, or you’re just really busy and people won’t stop bugging you. 

Distractions have been proven to have a damaging effect on productivity, and Young Henrys founder Oscar McMahon knows that well. 

In the early days of the hugely successful independent craft brewery, McMahon found that he kept getting distracted by passionate colleagues. 

As co-founder Dan Hampton New Investors: My Story host Sarah O’Carroll, due to the nature of their brewery, customers and staff would often walk in to watch the making and the kegging of the beer. 

And as they didn’t have an office, McMahon would be “just trying to get something done” at the tasting bar but was chronically distracted by questions from colleagues. 

Ultimately, McMahon was forced to take an unorthodox approach: wearing a hard hat with the words “Can your question wait?” 

McMahon kept the hat on for staff, but took it off for customers, Hampton added. 

Why a ‘don’t talk to me’ hat is a good thing to have

According to innovation psychologist Amantha Imber, avoiding distractions - like coworkers’ questions - is key to productivity. 

Speaking at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit this year, she explained that if we were able to focus on just one task at a time, we’d complete everything 40 per cent faster. 

That’s because multitasking is “basically just switching tasks”, but doing so quickly. 

The problem is that when we switch tasks, we also have to rewire the questions we’re asking and processes we’re completing, which slows everything down. 

“So let's just say I'm sitting at my desk writing a report and I decide I'm going to do a 'just check' of my emails because my report's feeling a little tricky,” Imber said.

“The first thing that happens is goal-shifting. My brain shifts goals and says, ‘Okay, my goal is not to write this report, my goal is to check emails.’

“The second thing that happens is rule activation. My brain drops the rules for how to write a report and opens up the rules for how to read and respond to emails. Then I remember that I'm meant to actually be writing a report and so my goals shift.”

While Imber didn’t suggest a hard hat, she did say a “big pair of f**k off headphones” can have the same effect on colleagues’ questions. 

Switching up your workspace by going to a cafe, working from home or even booking a meeting room can also help you settle into a better routine. 

“Be a monotasker and if you catch yourself task-switching throughout your workday again, just remind yourself that you are making things take 40 per cent longer than they have to.”

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