‘Multitasking’ has become something of a dirty word, lately: employers suspect it leads to compromised productivity, while those actually engaged in it report stress, burn-out, and confusion.
Yet multitasking is not all that bad and there are plenty of positive reasons to do it.
You may want to save time, or to progress on several projects at once, piecemeal. Perhaps you have your own business, and it makes economic sense to wear more than one hat at once. Or maybe you want to prove your adaptability to your boss.
In any case, there are good and bad times to multitask, and right and wrong ways to do so.
More and more these days, we create or develop our own specific job roles within a team. Playing to your strengths, knowing when to delegate, and planning your day efficiently can help you keep your work challenging and interesting for yourself, while enabling others to excel and the team to meet its goals.
If you’re multitasking just to look good, it is likely to backfire: instead, ensure that you are looking at the bigger picture.
If a particular task requires close attention, or if making a mistake would be disastrous, now is not the time to take on too much.
When you’re stressed, procrastinating, and can’t get started, it can be easier to spread your work into a list of separate tasks so that you can feel more effective ticking one off at a time, rather than being too overwhelmed to start.
But when the time for multitasking does arrive, be sure to group similar tasks together so that you can work on them all while your mind is in that particular zone.
For example, you could put the morning aside for marketing – both the creative work of generating ideas, and the less fun stuff like maintaining mailing lists. That way, you keep your audience in mind while you prepare your materials, and the more humdrum work feels worthwhile because you’re excited about sharing your new campaign.
Similarly, having several tasks on the go at once can help you with problem solving.
If you get stuck on one project, working on another for a while can give you a new perspective. Instead of grinding to a halt when you reach a brick wall, throw a left turn and see where your other projects take you.
Of course, one danger of taking on too many different tasks simultaneously is that issues can be overlooked if you get carried away. This is why is it vital to be organized.
That might mean setting a recurring alarm so you can sort through and respond to incoming email through the day, or creating a regular, color-coded schedule to ensure you’re spending a good amount of time on each aspect of your work and not getting carried away with the job you find most inspiring (or easy!).
A new infographic from PoundPlace breaks down the principles of good multitasking into eight key steps. So by all means, commit yourself to a regime of productive multitasking, but please – complete one single task first: learn how to do it properly!