When Multitasking Works… and When it Doesn’t
As a work-from-home-mom, I'm used to simultaneously managing my work, my family, my home, and my life. I pride myself in my ability to multi-task and consider multitasking an essential skill in order to accomplish everything that needs to be accomplished on a daily and weekly basis.
However, I also know that there are many times during the day when multitasking will actually COST me more time than if I simply shut down all distractions and completely focus on one task or activity until it's finished (this is easier said than done, by the way!)
You see, if you try to multi-task in every single area of your life, at the end of the day, you'll actually have wasted more energy, caused yourself more stress, and be left in the middle of many half-finished projects and no energy to complete any of them.
What is Multitasking?
Well, in my opinion, there are 2 different types "multitasking".
1. Completing mindless or routine activities while you also focus on another activity.
EXAMPLES = Flipping through a magazine while talking on the phone. Deleting junk emails while listening to a podcast. Brainstorming ideas for a meeting while exercising.
Since flipping through a magazine, deleting junk emails, and exercising don't require intense concentration, they won't distract you from listening to the person on the phone, listening to the podcast, or brainstorming.
In fact, performing these "mindless" activities might actually improve your concentration!
2. Juggling multiple activities at one time -- all of which require focus and concentration.
EXAMPLES = Typing up a report while trying to have a conversation (either in person, on the phone, or whatever). Listening to an important voice message while updating your website. Brainstorming while in an important meeting.
This type of multitasking DOESN'T work and often ends up wasting more of your time -- mainly because each of these activities require your full attention, but none of them are getting your full attention.
So while you may end up completing most of the items on your list, they won't be nearly as "quality", and they will probably take you a lot longer to finish.
How to break the habit.
If you're already in the habit of juggling WAY too many "focused" activities at one time, it's going to be difficult for you to break this habit. However, it can be done -- and I think you'll be amazed at how much more productive and efficient you are in the end!
Here are a few steps to get you started.
1. Make a Top 5 list!
I'm always an advocate for list-making... but when you're feeling overwhelmed by your super long to-do list, try making a Top 5 list instead.
Simply list out the top 5 things you absolutely MUST accomplish... and only focus on those tasks for now.
2. Pick ONE task.
Yes, I know, everything on your list needed to be finished yesterday -- but I promise, you'll actually work faster if you pick just ONE task and completely focus on it until it's finished.
If one of your projects needs to be completed on the computer, I highly suggest shutting down your email, silencing your phone, and closing down all social media. It might also be a good idea to close your office door or make it obvious that you can not accept visitors or any other interruptions.
3. Work until that task is completely finished.
OK, so I know this might not always be possible, but it's much nicer to be able to fully cross something off your list and remove it from your brain before moving on to the next task.
Once you've finished the first project on your Top 5 list, then go back and pick one more project -- etc. etc. Once all 5 of your Top 5 projects are completed, then make a new Top 5 list.
Pretty simple, but it works!
So while I still pride myself in my ability to multi-task, I'm also aware that there are many times when I am much more productive by focusing on only one thing at a time.