If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s multi-tasking. I can drive, talk, listen, drink, eat, and chew gum. I can watch TV, blog, monitor Twitter and Facebook, and check emails. I can referee fights, cook dinner, and do laundry.
I’m really good at multi-tasking. But I’m not so sure if it’s really good for me.
In trying to squeeze more work and more activity into the same eight hours, my multi-tasking is actually creating habits that cause me to mismanage time.
Multi-tasking’s Negative Outcomes
- Mistakes. How many times have you missed something or done something incorrectly, simply because you were too distracted with other tasks?
- Fatigue. Dealing with constant diversion and ball-juggling makes me tired. When I’m tired, I make mistakes.
- Creating a time-drain. More time—not less—is needed to over-correct and compensate for the detriments of multi-tasking.
I’m going to try using some tried and true time-management principles during the next few weeks, especially since I have some work deadlines and project deadlines that I’d need to complete in a timely manner.
1. Rely on an updated daily calendar.
I have a small calendar book I carry with me and one large one for the fridge. I have invested oodles of dollars over the years on planners, systems, and the like. My small calendar cost $1 at The Dollar Tree, and I got my fridge calendar on clearance at Michael’s the week after Christmas for 50 cents. Seriously. It doesn’t matter what you spend; it matters that you use the calendar and update it daily.
2. Divide project or jobs into smaller tasks and list each task, working backwards.
First decide what the end result is, then figure out what you need to do each day (or week or hour or whatever) to reach that goal. For example, if you need to write 1000 pages in five days, then you need to write 200 pages each day.Depending on the project, you may discover items that you can delegate to others. The project planning approach gives you an idea of how much time each task requires so you know what time to estimate for completion of the project.
3. Work on one project at a time.
In the construction or creative process, your attention must be on one thing at a time. Undoubtedly, this is the hardest for me to do, but for ultimate productivity, I must find a block of time with as few interruptions as possible. This is also the time to close out my email inbox, Facebook, and Twitter.
4. Work a project from beginning to end until done.
I recently heard about a productivity study that revealed that people got more products completed when they worked each one to completion and then began the next one. Our natural inclination is to work on like items in an assembly-line fashion, doing all the same tasks together then compiling the pieces for the finished product.
But this new information says that when we complete the finished product, it helps us actually get the work done more quickly. I’ve tried this with laundry—instead of doing all the washing, all the folding, and then all the putting away in phases, I’ve washed, dried, folded, and put away one basket at a time. I did feel more productive and there’s something about the sense of accomplishment, plus I wasn’t distracted by piles of “undone” work that I couldn’t get to.
What about you? Are you a hopeless multi-tasker?
Can you stop the multi-tasking over the next few weeks and see what happens to your productivity?
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