There’s No Such Thing as Multitasking

Many people tout their ability to multitask as a strength or key to their success. They say they’re able to get more done at once, better manage their time, or increase productivity as a whole. But, can you really do more than 1 task at a time? I mean, sure, maybe you can pat yourself on the head and rub your stomach at the same time. But, aside from that. Can you truly give 2 tasks 100% of your attention at the same time? No. You can’t. And it’s okay to admit this defeat.

mul·ti·task·ing
(v.) The art of doing a million things at once and getting nothing done.

What you’re actually doing when you think you’re multitasking, is switching between tasks. Before any of them are completed. Which is highly inefficient. The sooner you realize that multitasking is actually just switch-tasking, the sooner you can move on to a better time management strategy.

When I was a new manager, I constantly found myself defeated by my ever-growing list of things to do. It was helpful to me to find validation in that from speaking with peers and others recounting their transition to management. I have since been able to incorporate several of these tools into my repertoire and it has given me more freedom to focus on what really needs my attention.

You ready to ditch multitasking and truly gain some ground?

. . .

Here’s what to focus on instead:

Prioritize

A legitimate time management strategy is to use the Eisenhower matrix. Prioritize tasks by urgency and importance, to organize them into different work approaches:

Eisenhower Matrix example by Lindsi Hoy

Important & Urgent — Do these first.
Important, but not Urgent — Schedule these to do at a later time.
Urgent, but less Important — Delegate.
Not Urgent & not Important — Don’t do these things at all. (More on what to do with those items later.)

. . .

Implement a Block Schedule

Block scheduling is the process of blocking off specific periods of time throughout your day that you devote to specific tasks. You may already be doing this without realizing it.

For example, having your morning coffee and greeting associates at the office or checking email first-thing when you get to your desk. Your mind is focused on that task for that period of time and then you move on to the next task.

With this strategy, you work on the tasks that you’ve identified during the block of time within which they’ve been allocated. And when that block of time is up, you move on to the next block of time and the next set of tasks.

Doing this can take the stress out of a to-do list and eliminates distractions by allowing you to focus only on the tasks in the given block.

. . .

Ask yourself what to Stop, Start, and Keep Doing

Surely you don’t do things just for the sake of doing them. So, you must periodically stop to take inventory of the things you’re doing and the value they’re bringing.

Are there things that no longer add value? Are you actually doing thing just to do them? Things you identified are not important or urgent? Those are the things you should stop doing.

Conversely, are there things you’re not currently doing that you recognize could be bringing value? You should probably start doing those things.

And all of the things you’re currently doing that do bring value? Keep doing them.

. . .

Enforce a “1 in, 1 out” rule

As much as I love a good stretch assignment and believe that capacity can be developed, you’ve got to know your limits. Identify what is within your current capacity and enforce a “1 in, 1 out” rule for managing what’s on your proverbial plate.

This means that when you add something new to your plate, you take something else off. And how do you do that? This brings me to my next point.

 . . .

Delegate

Are there things on your to-do list that don’t have to be done by you? Delegate them to an associate. You could be creating an opportunity for that person. Make sure to set clear expectations for the work that needs to be completed.

If they are tasks that would be perceived by that associate as “busy work” then go back and revisit what you should Stop, Start and Keep Doing, because you’ve probably just identified something to stop doing.

This post was previously published on Change Becomes You and is republished here with permission from the author.

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