There comes a point in our business when tasks outweigh the time we have in our hands. We try to balance things, but to no avail we sometimes fail. In our attempt to pacify the situation, we multitask; to catch-up with the deadlines, we do multiple tasks all at once (or try to).
Try to recall the last time you resorted to multitasking and ask yourself this: Did it solve or aggravate the problem?
You may think that multitasking works well for you, or you may think otherwise. The important point to remember here is that you are able to meet your goal; which is to finish the tasks on time and in turn help you achieve success.
Here’s some food for thought:
Hitting Two Birds With One Stone
If you were to multi-task, keep in mind two important things: (1) You want to get things done on time, and (2) You to you want to get things done right. If you are left with no choice but to multitask, you might as well do it the right way (or at least the better way). The article How to Multitask lists 8 steps to follow when multitasking:
- Establish your goals.
- Schedule a time to give intense or complex tasks your full focus.
- Work on one thing at a time, but alternate.
- Eliminate unnecessary tasks.
- Choose compatible tasks.
- Choose interruptible tasks.
- Use wait time efficiently.
- Keep a selection of smaller projects or simpler tasks around to fill gaps in a larger project.
Furthermore, the article emphasizes that we should “Take the time to plan a bit. Even though planning is not doing, a good plan can make the doing more complete.”
According to American Public University:
Simple things like cooking dinner and talking on the phone can easily be done with positive results since only one requires brainpower or focus…
There is no denying that society today is moving at a faster pace. Employers have higher expectations of the amount of work that can be accomplished by their employees because of technology. Combine this with our own willingness to take advantage of this technology to add even more to an already busy schedule of school, work, and family, and multitasking looks like the perfect answer.
However, it is not the answer to help us find more time every day. Multitasking can ultimately create more work and stress as we redo the things we did not focus on and ask again for information we weren’t able to process.
Don’t be a person who starts everything and finishes nothing. Time may be of the essence, but quality should never be compromised in whatever work we do (as long as it is actually a task that is worth doing).
In other words, not ALL tasks are compatible to be done all together. Some require more attention that the rest, some are “no-brainer” tasks and can be done without much need for focus or attention.
Did you know that while each task switch might only waste 1/10 of a second, a lot a task switching over a day could result in up to 40% loss in productivity?! (Source below)
The ability to sort which task requires your full attention and which ones don’t will always be an important way to plan your actions ahead.
Let’s admit it, there are tasks that require minimal analysis and there are tasks that makes us wish we had two brains working together for the same task. As listed above, #6 in the list of steps to Multitask states: Choose interruptible tasks. Consider tasks that demand your focus and energy, and don’t short-change it. These kinds of tasks are usually the ones that are crucial and need your attention the most.
“Supertask”, Don’t Multitask
Super-tasking is a way to maximize the things you do without compromising quality. It is about doing as many tasks as you can by planning and organizing your actions ahead, so you know which tasks to prioritize and focus your attention to. Efficiency is the way to do things right; start your project right, to end it right and on time. Do not procrastinate (I know that’s easier to say than to do) and set deadlines at a reasonable timeframe by considering possible delays, wait time and transition time (it takes time and mental energy to switch between tasks, more so if the tasks are very different, take place in different locations, and require a different pace).
Multitasking is okay and perhaps a necessary evil, but it is not the best answer. Sometimes multitasking “has” to happen due to unanticipated time constraints, crises or emergencies or many other possible reasons, but if we know how to plan our time wisely AND how we work best, then multitasking can and should be avoided.
Think about your routine and not-so-routine tasks. What could you re-organize, consolidate (group together), or sequence together so your “switches” are not so drastic? Would love to hear more about some challenges you’ve had or fixes you suggest in the comments below.
Here’s some related reading: