Multitasking does not come naturally to everybody. Most people believe that they are good at multitasking, even though they feel drained and stressed at the end of the day, or skip over important tasks without even realizing it. They try to cram too much into a short space of time without any real structure.
Some would call it an art to multitask; an art of maintaining a steady balance between the numerous tasks that crop up on a daily basis while accomplishing a lot and being productive at the same time. On the other side of the spectrum, when done wrong multitasking strains our nerves and leaves us feeling flustered and unproductive at the end of the day.
Let’s look at some tips on how to multitask productively:
You’d want as few distractions as possible while multitasking, simply because it can be so easy to lose focus.
If, for example, you need to work on a computer, refrain from opening any IM programs, chat services or websites unrelated to what you are focusing on. It only takes one pop-up message or one status update on Facebook to distract you. Cell phones could also cause a distraction; it’s advisable to switch it off if you don’t need it for work, or switch it to silent instead.
Personally, I work better when my office door is closed. I can take calls and book jobs while still keeping my admin and paper work up date and filed, and sort through customer queries.
If your door is closed, or you have earphones on, colleagues will refrain from interrupting you while you are focused on what needs to be done. The goal is to work in an environment that doesn’t shift your focus from the priority tasks at hand.
Keeping a list is of utmost importance if you want to multitask efficiently. This is more than just your average To Do list; this list will help you to focus and run through your tasks smoothly. You don’t need any complicated mind tools or applications for this either, a simple notebook or text file will do.
Start by listing the most important tasks first and edit your list as you go along, always keeping the priority items at the top. You can add tasks during the day as they crop up, and tick/delete completed tasks. Turn to your list several times during the course of the day to make sure you don’t skip anything important.
By keeping a list, you will stay cool, calm and collected when change happens or something unexpected pops up.
Certain tasks just work better together than others. Experiment with different combinations and see what works and what doesn’t. A good guideline is to combine something physical with something mental. Be thoughtful about matching tasks that can support each other, rather than picking random tasks that will only leave you feeling frazzled afterwards.
When done right, multitasking goes from being counterproductive, to being a skill.