Community Chatter: What are you multi-tasking hacks?
We've reached the time of the year where the holiday season is coming in fast and time is becoming a more and more valuable - and rare - commodity. So we thought we'd check-in and see what everyone's tips and tricks are for multi-tasking.
In a digital world, there is often a misconception that digital tools enable massive amounts of multi-tasking, because so many tools (or tabs & windows) can be opened and utilized simultaneously.
The hard truth about multitasking is that there’s no such thing. Dividing focus is not focus, it’s a method of ongoing distraction and can result in a lesser quality of work across tasks rather than the highest quality work, focused on one outcome.
To do my best work, I focus on priorities, one at a time. Much like Ami, I use the Pomodoro method to organize my time. One of the most used apps on my phone is an app which sets my Pomodoro Method timer: 50 minutes of focus, 10 minutes to get up & walk away and take a mental break before the next round of focus. Perhaps that’s a moment to do the dishes, or make lunch. The ten minute break could be considered the time allotted for tasks that require less focus, or simply a time to stretch. However, in terms of work, the app is an essential tool for me. Without the app, I find myself forgetting my personal rule of “there’s no such thing as multitasking” because of external pressure to believe that digital tools make multitasking possible, when in fact they serve to distract. The Pomodoro app keeps me in check!
To tackle priorities, the key is focus. The exception to this rule would be the smaller tasks, which I tend to call ‘Business As Usual’ tasks even if they are unique. These tasks can be turned into a checklist & tackled without focus, throughout the day: checking email, shredding documents, making appointments, scheduling meetings. Similarly, to tackle the ‘Business As Usual’ tasks, I set aside time to focus only on those checklist items. In the end, even the checklist items require the same level of focus. In the long run, I find a greater sense of accomplishment, and tangible achievement, when I complete one task to the best of my ability, one task at a time.
For me, the key to multitasking is that your brain can really only focus on one thing at a time for maximum efficiency - so I focus on adding in things that don’t require my active attention.
I “multitask” by starting laundry right before I log on to work for the day, I move it to the dryer on a break and start the next load, until the task is done. As a matter of fact, right now I have dough rising for Thanksgiving rolls while I do laundry and write this post. :) It’s the same idea as cooking a huge meal; planning and understanding where you have to pay attention and where you can “set it and forget it” allows you to accomplish more in the same amount of time.
I guess most people wouldn’t call that multitasking, but for me it lets me get all the things that I need to do with minimal effort and since it’s happening while I’m working, it frees my time in the evenings and on the weekend to truly rest and relax.
This won’t technically answer the question, but I try my best not to multitask. I find that I get less done when I try to do too many things at once. So, instead, I use an online Pomodoro timer to juggle tasks throughout the day.
For the uninitiated, the Pomodoro Method means setting a timer for 25 mins to focus on a single task, then take a 5 min break, and restart the 25 mins for the next task. Depending on the day, I can break one big project into 25-minute chunks or juggle multiple tasks by working on each one for 25 minutes at a time. The breaks are rarely real breaks, but my time to check e-mail, Slack, and re-prioritize based on anything new that’s come in.
Of course, not all days fit neatly into 25-minute chunks, and sometimes my attention needs to jump more often throughout the day. I’ll still use the timer but will pause for urgent things, do my best to remain present and focused on it for as long as it needs my attention, then refocus and start the timer again. Even if I don’t hold to the “schedule” 100%, the timer helps to remind me what I was working on before I got pulled away, so it’s easier to get back to it.
Now it's your turn! Do you believe in multi-tasking? If so what tips or tricks do you use to make it work? Have you tried the Pomodoro method? Did it work for you? Let us know.