The Multitasking Myth (Part 2)

In my previous post on the matter of multitasking, we discussed why multitasking is a myth. In this post, I hope to showcase ways in which one can better organize their tasks in a way that does not cause too much context switching.

How to "multitask"

So how you do you truly "multitask" if you cannot physically do so? Well first, you do it with a careful choice of words.

Second, you do it with focus, prioritization, and ordering.

If you are jealous of a colleague who is good at multitasking, they are likely very good at slowing down to speed up. Here are some great ways to accomplish this feat and become better at "multitasking."

Shift to single tasking

There are things that can be done to consciously change gears from project to project or work item to work item.

Specifically, time-boxing work can be helpful. Allow yourself at least 15 minutes of time to work on one item before moving to another.

Another effective strategy for balancing multiple projects without multitasking is pulled from Lifehack. Raj Dash of suggests the following workflow to handle a new project or work item that will take some time to complete.

  1. Take at least 15 minutes to acquaint yourself with a new project or item
  2. Revisit the project later in the day and do about 30 minutes on research and brainstorming
  3. Allow a few days to pass and work on other things
  4. Once a few days have passed, pick up and finish that work

Remove distractions

Depending on where and how you work, difficulty to remove distractions might be greater for some than it is for others.

One thing is for sure, it is easier than ever to become distracted, thanks to the emergence of Slack, smartphones, and open office spaces.

Here are some tips to employ, if you have a lot to get done:

  • Set hourly times to check Slack and Email, otherwise, shut the apps down
  • Remove notifications from your smartphone
  • Remove your smartphone entirely, and only check it during breaks
  • Find a quiet place or open meeting room to do your work, away from others
  • Switch to one monitor where possible

Establish a response protocol

It's easy to get in the habit of responding to email within moments of receiving them or dropping what you are doing to respond to simple emails.

Work with your team to establish a response protocol that allows some wiggle room between time of email receipt and time of response.

Schedule specific cadences with which you check and respond to email throughout the day (e.g. four times per day, etc.).

Let something/someone else do the work

You don’t need to keep everything to yourself. It is easy to burn out on small details within our projects.

There are many tools available to help manage a busy workload. These can manifest in the physical and digital space, and include:

  • List creation apps, like Wunderlist or Teuxdeux
  • Setting reminders in your calendar (Google or Outlook)
  • Sticky notes or cards to sort, organize, and track items in progress

Use the above tools to get items out of your immediate headspace but in a visible place.

Where possible and appropriate, delegate work to other members of your team. If they can help you deliver on fast turnarounds and have the availability, why not work with them?

Take a break, for goodness sake

After you have done good work, take a small break. Get away from your desk, take a breather, and get away from what you are doing. This helps you recharge.

Use the restroom before you come back from a break to maximize your focus time while you are at your desk.

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