The Multitasking Myth
Multitasking is exactly what it sounds like – trying to do more than one thing at a time. Many of us multitask throughout our day – listening to a colleague while checking email or working on a document while talking on the phone. We have the idea that we get more done when we multitask or that this is the best way to maximize our time.
Multitasking is less efficient. Studies show that 30-40% more time is spent when you multitask rather than when you mono-task (work on one thing at a time). Multitasking also means your attention is divided, which can lead to miscommunication and errors.
I am always multitasking and, more than I care to admit, there are many redoes. As a baby boomer, I use the excuse that my age affects my performance. Most of us, especially us Type A’s, like to think we’re great multitaskers. We’re not. It’s a myth.
We all have the same number of hours in the day, so why is it that some people seem to get so much more done?
The ability to effectively manage your time is key to productivity. You may not be able to create more time in your day, but applying time management skills can help you make the most of the time you do have.
The Art of Scheduling
We know that if we want to have a meeting, get a haircut, or see our healthcare provider, we need to make an appointment. We schedule our errands and vacations. But when it comes to our own time and work, we do it independently. Too often we take a piecemeal approach and just do whatever comes to hand first.
Taking the time to schedule work tasks, even those you do independently, helps you make better use of your time. Instead of doing work as it comes to you, take the time to slot in a block of time on your schedule for each task.
Don’t forget to schedule breaks, too!
Scheduling tasks make them a priority – after all, you wouldn’t just skip a doctor’s appointment or other scheduled obligation. Seeing something on your schedule also helps you remember that it needs to get done!
Managing your priorities is key to managing your time.
Taking the time to determine what is most important, whether in terms of value or terms of completion, is the first step. Take time each day and week to determine what your priorities for the coming days are. Slot these into your schedule first. This allows you to ensure that time is blocked off and resources allocated for the most important tasks and projects.
When we don’t take time to set priorities, everything becomes equally urgent – which means that we move from task to task in a way that is haphazard and does not make the best use of our time or energy.
A major key to productivity, especially if you want to find a flow state, is to manage your distractions.
Distractions happen – we can minimize them and manage them, but never eliminate them. Creating a plan for managing distractions is a key time management skill. The first step is to determine what your major distractions are. Is it colleagues popping into your office? Is it your email or voicemail? Do you get bored with routine tasks if you have to focus on them for too long? Figuring out what your major distractions are can help you brainstorm solutions and better manage them.