Multi-tasking is a way of life for many, while others try to avoid doing more than one thing at a time. For some of us, it is something we must tolerate in order to maintain some sense order and accomplishment in our daily lives. By definition, multi-tasking is simply the action of completing multiple tasks at one time. While most of us perform ineffective forms of multi-tasking, only effective multi-tasking can improve work flow and create efficient task completion. Effective multi-tasking takes prioritization, focus and adaptability, and provides a sense of order and control.
You probably realize that your success is riding on your ability to maximize your time and performance to the highest optimal point possible.
You can only handle so much in any given 24-hour day and unless you've found a way to add more time to the clock, you have to do more in less or the same amount of time without running yourself into the ground. We all have 168 hours in the week and it’s all about how effectively we use the time we have.
The five principles outlined below are not difficult, but they do take discipline - and that's what efficient multi-tasking comes down to.
Multi-tasking shouldn't make you feel like you're in the middle of a cyclone; there is actually a way to apply effective multi-tasking principles that will help you keep your sanity AND add time to your day.
Here are five secrets of effective multi-tasking:
- Give your full attention to the task in front of you
- Setting specific time frames for task completion
- Becoming effective at switching gears within like/similar activities
- Prioritizing high pay-off and low priority tasks
- Honor thy calendar
The first 4 items listed are components of item #5, so let's review the base of each principle first.
1. Give your full attention to the task in front of you.
This is sometimes an easy thing to overlook, but often the reason why our tasks take longer than we estimate. We allow ourselves to be distracted by what's around us and next thing you know you've started 3 projects and completed none. When you set a clear rule that you will focus on only one specific task at a time, you increase your efficiency dramatically. Not only will you become quicker at completing tasks, but you will improve your accomplish rate by finishing more tasks even quicker. This is a base principle in multi-tasking efficiency - learn to focus on the task at hand and ignore distractions.
2. Setting specific time frames for task completion.
Multi-tasking includes time management. It's amazing how focused we can really be when we have a deadline or a short amount of time to get a task completed. If you have 15 minutes to complete the task, focus on setting the intention that you will get it done within that amount of time so you can move on to your next task. However, you don’t want to complete something within the time allotted and have it done poorly.
3. Becoming effective at switching gears.
This is where a lot of people get tripped up. They finish one task and move on to the next, only to still be thinking about the task they just finished. When a task is complete, all emotional energy related to that task should be released. Look at the completion of your tasks as an emotional release. It's done - finished. You no longer have to think about it. You're moving on. One big key is to try and keep similar activities together so you don’t have to mentally make big adjustments between tasks. It wastes precious time when you have to switch between unlike activities.
4. Prioritizing high payoff and low priority tasks.
Concentrate on prioritizing your tasks from high payoff to low priority.
At the top of your list should be the high payoff items with the low priority items at the bottom. Emailing a friend to tell them about your date last night or your golf game and score does not qualify as a high payoff activity. Following up on referrals, returning calls to current clients, generating leads, etc. are tasks that qualify as high payoff activities. Generate the business first because that is what generates income. Everyone knows this but for some reason we just don’t always focus on it and make it happen.
5. Honor thy calendar!
Effective multi-tasking also relies on effective time management and that means, whether you like or not, working from a calendar. Without having to keep everything in your head, complicating your already busy life - you can write it down and let it go to some extent. You don't have to stress about forgetting it because it will be in your calendar. Honoring thy calendar can actually provide a lot of relief and control in your life.
Try it. You will be glad you did.
Schedule EVERYTHING - even showers, eating, drive time, working out, etc.
Through trial and error you will learn the best time for you to do certain tasks. Take exercise for instance; some people work out in the morning, while others prefer the evening. Schedule your tasks for time optimization. You can even color code certain tasks for easy, quick-glance reference.
If you are like me, you might have a tendency to schedule more than you can handle. To avoid feeling like you're always running behind, schedule your tasks and add 'buffer' time to each; say 15 or 30 minutes. If you actually do finish before the time allotted, then you have the gift of getting ahead on your schedule. If you are like me, there never seems to be a shortage of items on my list, so getting head feels really good.
If you have several activities that are alike or similar, do them all at the same time. This will help cut down on the chaos of the day and avoid the excessive need to change hats more than necessary. Consider setting specific times you check your email throughout the day instead of checking it constantly. When you can focus your energy on similar activities, it maximizes your effectiveness. You can even go as far as only taking client calls at certain times throughout the day, instead of answering the phone every time it rings. Have someone answer the phone, or simply set up your voice mail to explain what time you pick up messages and when the caller can expect a return call. An even better way to handle this would be to schedule a phone appointment to ensure time efficiency.
Calendaring may take some getting used to, but it really does make your life simpler by maximizing time and performance. You will feel in control of your life and enjoy it even more. With improved efficiency and great time management you will get more done in a shorter amount of time - all with less stress.
Learn the fundamentals of the game and stick to them. Band-Aid remedies never last.
Legendary Professional Golfer