I was recently told that I was a great multitasker. The conversation gist was that there was a project that needed so much to be done at once. My colleague looked at me and said we need someone like Louisa – she can do 10 things at once. My response was that I’ve slowed down to 5 things at once, but then I was thinking about multitasking more and what it means. Is multitasking a good thing? I’ve come to realise it’s not at all, and here’s why.
An article in Forbes from 2014 suggested multitasking damages your brain and your career. Whoa, okay that’s a worry. The article goes on to say multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance. My work always had expectations that I could deliver multiple activities simultaneously. It was stressful, but I delivered what I was asked to do.
I’m going to take Forbes article with a little salt. I’m now thinking about what multitasking means. Am I actually multitasking, or am I just speeding and flicking between through lots of work quickly? I consulted the American Psychological Association (APA) for further clarity – keeping both pages open to flick quickly between Forbes and APA for clarification. APA advises that according to experts multitasking may take more time in the end.
Multitasking is also known as context switching. Speaker, trainer and motivator Todd Herman sums this up very well in his explanation that switching between tasks loses you time – the more tasks you are doing simultaneously the more time you lose. I first heard of this via Todd’s 90 Day Year, but he has been explaining this for years via his coaching and mentoring.
If you’re in a position where you need to keep on top of a lot of information, use diaries and planners to help you. Schedule your calendar so you know allocate your time to your tasks accordingly. Amanda Johnson from Virtual Assistant Coaching and Training refers to time chunking where you schedule yourself according to your priorities. If you know you’ll be away for a week or two, plan ahead and allocate chunks of time to get on top of your tasks and minimise the chance of multitasking and exacerbating the chance of errors and stress.
I’ve shared below my calendar for a week, showing how I allocate chunks of time. I colour code the tasks so I can see how much time I spend on different priorities. Blue is for social media, orange for research, green is when I’m focusing on my direct business needs. I colour code clients, health, and calls with colleagues and potential clients.
I’ve found a system that works for me and helps me to focus and minimise splitting my time via multitasking. It doesn’t always work as I have planned, but with practice, I’m getting better. You’ll see I work on the weekend – I’m most productive on Sunday. I’m not entirely sure why, but I use this time to focus on tasks that I know need my attention for multiple hours.
How many tabs do you have open on your browser at the moment? Something to think about…
If you’ve come across Brian Tracy’s book ‘Eat That Frog’ he strategises that getting more out of your day comes down to your ability to get tasks done in the most effective way. By getting the tough stuff done that you may usually avoid, that lingers, it will help you take control of your time. You’ll never get everything done, but you can become highly effective at what are your priorities.
By managing your time and avoiding the loss of time from multitasking, you should be able to improve productivity and get tasks done in a more efficient manner.
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