For some people, multitasking is a way of life. There’s always been this impression that people who can multitask are more efficient and more productive. Don’t we all just feel amazed by a colleague who can talk on the phone, write an email on his computer, and take down notes, all while having lunch at his desk?
Someone who can multitask like that can make you feel slightly incompetent, especially if you can barely keep your focus doing one task. But an important thing that you should know is that it’s not exactly “multitasking,” and that multitasking does not necessarily mean productivity. The human brain is simply not wired to perform actions that are not in an exact linear sequence. Thus, the brain does not multitask; it simply switches tasks.
Multitasking does not mean that you can handle multiple tasks at one go and still deliver flawless results. More often than not, when you multitask, you also increase your chances of committing mistakes and producing less than perfect results.
People often resort to multitasking because they fail to complete one task on time, so they have to do it at the same time as another task. If you have several tabs open on your computer, or you’re doing something else while talking on the phone, or if you simply have several folders waiting to be opened on your desk, that’s multitasking already.
The trick is to do the most important and biggest tasks first, ones that require the biggest amount of concentration and energy. Don’t think about or do anything else until you have finished with this task.
Follow a Plan
If you’re having a hard time prioritizing tasks, then following a plan can significantly help. A plan will keep your day organized, and it will keep you from spending too much time on one task and ending up neglecting another one. Plan your day ahead and you will not spend an hour doing nothing and then rushing to meet deadlines for the rest of the day.
Set Specific Time Frames For Specific Tasks
Don’t take too long on the phone when you know you have a ton of emails to reply to. Don’t go on a two-hour lunch if you still have twenty people to call. Set realistic time frames for specific tasks depending on the level of difficulty. Be willing to adjust time frames, but don’t do the rest of your tasks all at the same time if you don’t want to make mistakes or produce less than stellar work.
Keep Distractions to a Minimum
Once you get a notification from your smartphone or a colleague drops by for a quick chat, your concentration is broken, and it can lead you to start doing two things at once. You’ll find at the beginning that it doesn’t affect your overall output. But the longer you do it, the more that the quality of your work is diminished, and there are more mistakes that could easily have been avoided. Resist the urge to be disturbed and just focus on the task at hand. There’s always time for everything else later.