What is Multitasking?
Multitasking is the ability to work on multiple tasks at once and complete them simultaneously. In reality it is about planning. Juggling many tasks can become easier and less stressful with practice. Multitasking skills can be learned and improved with every project you work on.
The Downside of Multitasking
Having many tasks to complete is stressful, but it doesn’t need to be. If you are feeling overwhelmed and drowning in todo lists, take a look at our multitasking examples below to see how these tips can overcome that stress and turn it into productivity.
1. Distinguish urgent from important
A flawless to-do list is one of the keys to good multitasking. And the secret behind it is a thorough understanding of the differences between urgent (tight deadlines) and important (long-term sustainability) matters.
For instance, try applying the Eisenhower’s Principle. It says you should prioritize your tasks in the following sequence:
- Important and urgent;
- Important but not urgent;
- Not important but urgent;
- Not important and not urgent.
The importance of the assignment sets the tone of your to-do-list, not the urgency. However, it doesn’t mean you must do your tasks always in this order. Some people use level 3 and 4 to create “breaks” between more relevant issues.
2. Learn to concentrate
Concentration is fundamental to multitasking. Productive people focus entirely on what they are doing in each given moment, then switch tasks. If it sounds difficult to you, here are some suggestions on how to accomplish it:
- Work on your willpower: Overcoming procrastination can make you waste time between assignments, especially if you don’t have a deadline coming soon. Make sure you know the importance of what you are doing, even if you need to set reminders on your phone.
- Try some meditation: Meditation is known for its ability to improve focus. There are several apps with great suggestions that can help you with it so that you won’t be bored – staying in silence in a dark room while paying attention to your breath is just one of its techniques.
- Take notes (or doodle): Specialists also suggest that engaging in handwriting activity during work can help you to stay on the right track. Some people take notes, others doodle. Pick your favorite.
3. Work in blocks of time
You might have heard that multitasking skills are a myth, that no one can do more than one task at the same time. Even though this isn’t entirely true (depending on what you call a task), the point here is being able to switch assignments. And you can achieve it by grouping your tasks and getting them done through separate blocks of time.
For instance, adopt the Pomodoro Technique. It suggests that you work in 25-minute blocks, then take a short break after each block, followed by a longer break after every 4 blocks. However, this might not work for you if it forces you to stop at a critical stage.
The idea works because it’s easier to concentrate for 30 minutes than 1 hour. You just need to figure out the best time length for your project.
4. Work on related tasks together
Sometimes, you don’t have to switch assignments. You can work on more than one simultaneously if they are related.
Looking at these multitasking skills examples:
- All research can be dealt with at once
- Hold a meeting to discuss several topics
- Prepare a single presentation to apply for a loan that will fund more than one project
It won’t always be so simple. You will need to look for other ways to group your tasks, such as carrying out all duties delegated to the same employee, or managing issues based on location, type of product, and so on.
In any case, this approach has the extra advantage of presenting you the big picture so that you can transfer knowledge from one project to another.
5. Take breaks
As important as the time you spend being productive, are the minutes you save to rest. Taking breaks is a proven way to restart your mind so you can get back to work refreshed. Your body will also thank you for the opportunity to move around, preventing muscular tension and its damaging consequences.
The length and frequency of your downtime will be defined by your personal choices, your line of work, and the task at hand. The usual recommendation is stopping for 15 minutes every hour, and never skipping lunch. But it’s also essential to pre-schedule your time off, so it’s set at regular intervals – especially if you are dealing with creative tasks.
6. Make a to-do list
The most powerful way to calm a busy mind full of things to do is to write a todo list. It might not feel like you are improving your multitasking skills, but you are organising your thoughts and prioritising what needs to get done.
7. Use online tools to keep you on track
To make the tips above easier for you, consider adopting an online tool. If all you need is a to-do list, there are many apps you can use for free. However, as a project manager, you probably need a more powerful project management tool, something that allows you to have all your projects, communications and their respective tasks in one place.
Choose the best product based on the challenges you have identified. No project management tool is perfect, yet you want features able to tackle your most important concerns, such as communication, project risk assessment, task management, and workflow.
8. Plan ahead
Once you become more confident in your ability to multitask, start planning your day ahead – either first thing on Monday morning, or last thing on Friday afternoon. You will then realize the following about most of your tasks:
- They repeat at regular intervals
- Some require more concentration than others
- Many of them relate to each other, for example steps to reach Project Milestones
This understanding will help you to switch assignments, offering the information you need to become better organized. Once you reach this stage, consider creating to-do lists one, two, three weeks beforehand – only remember to allocate time to attend last-minute requests. Soon, you will have monthly and annual calendars ready to make your days much more manageable.
This article was culled from Cirkus.com