Updated: January 2, 2012
Are you a multitasker? Do you try to do a lot of different things at the same time?
There are many arguments against multitasking when it comes to productivity. Some say that multitasking is actually counterproductive because you usually end up with nothing accomplished. Moreover, the quality of your results tend to be less than desired.
However, I believe that multitasking, if done the right way, can really help us finish our goals faster and easier. It is important to understand though that there is a correct way to do this and one cannot simply do two or more things at the same time and call oneself an effective multitasker already.
So what’s the right way to do multitasking for better productivity? The short answer is multiple projects, clearly defined tasks, finish-line focus in every step.
Sounds confusing? Here’s a better explanation and a step by step guide.
Step 1: Write down all your projects.
In most cases, everything you need to do can be grouped into projects. This doesn’t only include work but all your daily or weekly activities. Let’s consider as an example an independently-living freelancer. His typical projects would be: household chores, personal activities, work project 1 and work project 2.
Step 2: List down all tasks involved in each project.
It’s recommended to be as detailed as possible. For example, our freelancer’s household chores might include doing the grocery, cleaning the house, etc. His personal activities could be blogging, going out with friends, etc. And his work project tasks would be submitting a proposal, getting client’s approval, setting a client meeting, submitting a project draft, etc.
Step 3: For each task, assign a deadline, a level of priority and the estimated time needed to accomplish it.
At this point, you’ll be able to see which among your tasks are important and urgent. You can also evaluate and arrange your list in chronological order, which means tagging activities which are needed to be done first before you can move to the next task. Furthermore, you’ll have a good overview of how much you can accomplish in a day and have a better estimate how long a project would take to finish.
Step 4: Look for non-critical tasks that you can do at the same time.
One advantage of having this to-do list is that you can easily determine which among them can be done simultaneously. For example, if I needed to buy groceries and meet a friend I haven’t seen for a long time, then I could invite him to join me and catch up with what’s happening while walking the aisles of the supermarket. Do remember that this is only for non-critical tasks – those that don’t require much focus and whose output quality is not a factor.
Step 5: Full finish-line focus on important tasks but allow yourself to work on different projects.
This simply means single-tasking multiple projects. For example, do and finish Task 1 of Project A. After that, you might want to rest and take your mind off Project A or maybe you’re waiting for feedback from your client before you can do Task 2. If so, then it’s okay to tackle Task 1 of Project B next. Afterward, you can either go back and do Task 2 of Project A, continue with Task 2 of Project B or maybe go to Task 1 of Project C.
In a nutshell, when you’re faced with important tasks, it’s always best to give your full attention. And by breaking up your To-Do list into smaller tasks, integrating similar activities into one task and setting priorities, then more and better results can be accomplished in less time.
How about you? Are you a multitasker? If so, how do you manage?
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Photo courtesy of JayceG