Sometimes Multi-Tasking Is the Only Option

Having the luxury of being able to focus on one task at a time, often ensures more accurate work and can lead to greater productivity.  However, sometimes time constraints and situations out of our control mean that we have no alternative but to multi-task.Multi-Tasking For example, a chef in a busy restaurant is unlikely to have the luxury of cooking for each table at a time, they will tend to be cooking lots of different dishes in unison.  Similarly, if we work in a team and one of our work colleagues is off work. We will often have to factor covering some of their work into our day, when we already have a busy workload.

So, what is the secret of successful multi-tasking?

Routine, related and familiar tasks are easier to multi-task. They don’t require the same level of concentration as more complex tasks.  Schedule certain times of the day for routine tasks like reading and answering emails and other parts of the day when you can focus on the tasks that require more creativity or thought.  If you are covering for a work colleague, you might have to check your own emails and your work colleague’s, whilst also answering the phone. Just remember to make notes of phone conversations as your concentration levels will not be as good as when you can focus fully.  Once the routine, related tasks are out of the way, you should be able to allow yourself time out to focus on the important tasks.

Multi-task at the right times and on the right things

Certain tasks do not require our full attention, so focussing solely on them would be a waste of valuable time.  For example, printing and collating can often be programmed into the photocopier/printer and left until it’s completed.  Whilst this is being done, can focus on something else, put a reminder in your phone/calendar to check when the print run is completed.  For those of us that work in a customer-focused environment, there will often be peaks and troughs of customers.  To ensure less boredom and more productivity during the troughs, focus on other work. Make sure it’s work that does not require a great deal of concentration, as you are likely to be interrupted regularly.

If you’re working on a large project that requires input from other people. You might find that you have periods where you’re working on it intensely and other periods where you are unable to continue, because you are waiting for information from others.  Therefore, in these instances it is more productive to have filler tasks to complete.

Stay in control when multi-tasking

One of the main problems with multi-tasking can be that you lose track of all the tasks that need doing.  However, if you use your to-do list to keep on top of your tasks, just knowing what you have to do can relieve some of the pressure on your memory and brain. Allowing you to feel more in control.  Also, it might help to divide tasks into sub-tasks, so you can cross part of the work off, thus ensuring that you still feel as though you’re being productive.

Whilst we often more productive when we focus on one task at a time. We need to be open to the prospect of multi-tasking in certain circumstances.  As long as we stay in control of our workload and are clear about what we have completed, what is outstanding and what requires our full focus, multi-tasking on the right things may help.

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Mike Gardner – The Time Doctor

Mike Gardner aka ‘The Time Doctor’ and is highly regarded as one of the UK’s leading Time Management and productivity specialists. As well as being regularly featured in both online and off-line media outlets around the world, he is the author of the best selling time management book, Business Owners: Your Family Misses You. He regularly speaks on topics that are congruent with his mission of helping small business owners, entrepreneurs and independent professionals to be incredibly productive, whilst still balancing their business and family commitments in a way that enables them to feel fulfilled and guilt-free. He is an avid Aston Villa fan, a Dad to Neil & Emma, a hubby to Wendy and in his role as an Officer with the reserve forces, he has completed operational tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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