3 MULTITASKING SECRETS AND HOW TO EFFECTIVELY MULTITASK
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Multitasking. We’re taught about it in grade school, it’s highly requested and even demanded by employers, and society in conjunction with present media encourages it. Multitasking boasts efficiency, effectiveness, and success. We hear that we are better students, workers, and family members if we are good multi taskers. So what is multitasking anyway?
Well, it goes something like this: we’re told (and/or we convince ourselves) that we should do two or more tasks at one time and expect all tasks to be exceptionally well done in less time than it would take to do them individually. Are you with me? I ask because it makes no logical sense!
How many of you out there consider yourself a professional multi-tasker? How many of you wish you could consider yourself at least an amateur multi-tasker? I myself used to be part of the latter group until I discovered the secrets to multitasking I’m about to share with you.
1. Our brains are actually designed to multitask,
just not the way we think/hope when it comes to generalized multitasking. The two natural focus points are: the task at hand, and instinctual survival. Once we add the need to focus on anything additional, then something has to give between the first two.
If survival is the focus point that pays, then multitasking can be straight up dangerous, both physically and mentally! Mentally and emotionally we’re constantly disappointed because we’ve deluded ourselves into believing a false definition for multitasking and therefore never meet our own expectations or the expectations possibly placed on us. Physically, we either miss or ignore signs of danger. Overworking muscles is an example of danger that we miss in the moment then pay for it later.
Using the phone while driving is another prime example of physical danger. Despite all the research and evidence, we kid ourselves into thinking that we’re too skilled at multitasking for that to be a problem for ME. Then we fuel the statistic. I have to admit that the one time I had an at fault accident in a vehicle, I was on the phone. No-touch-speakerphone but on the phone none the less. Luckily I only scratched my car and the side of a garage door but it could have been much worse. Lesson learned.
2. Faster and quality don’t go together,
one usually comes at the expense of the other. Focus is finite. We don’t magically acquire more focus when we add tasks to our immediate attention. So, the more tasks at our attention, the less focus they each get, which leads to lower quality completion and/or mistakes, which leads to paying for it later (spending time making it better, spending extra energy on the next task because we didn’t set ourselves up efficiently for it, etc.).
3. Efficient multitasking is fake news;
the act of multitasking in fact lowers efficiency per task. You’ll notice these are secrets to effective multitasking, not efficient multitasking. If you have a method for truly efficient multitasking then I’m all ears. Multitasking is jumping our focus for brief periods from one task to another. This prevents us from getting in a groove and we expend energy jumping focus and trying to pick up tasks where we left off. Even when we manage to literally do two tasks at the same time, we are only able to pay a fraction of our total focus to each task. This fuels limited self encouragement which ultimately leaves us feeling unproductive.
So, examples of how to effectively multitask:
Start by investing the time and focus on making a list of tasks you want to do (and focus solely on it).
· Organize your results into high importance and other (because nothing on the list is low importance). This shows you the tasks you want to dedicate all your attention to vs ones that can take longer or be done sub par if needed.
· Then organize the tasks by difficulty or amount of focus needed to to it well. I use easy, medium, and hard.
Also consider tasks with long breaks in focus. Laundry for example, I don’t need to focus on it while it’s in the washer, but it’s hard to do anything else while I’m transferring wet garments to the dryer.
Pair tasks considering your finite amount of focus and which tasks you want to see quality results from. Maybe a really easy task with a harder task that I’m willing to turn out at 90%. Maybe a couple of easy tasks that I can still achieve adequate quality multitasking. I could put two brainstorming tasks together and share the creativity, or a thoughtful task with a more hands on task.
There’s no one right way to pair them. Use trial and error to find what works best for you.
Personal suggestion: try playing with timers and delays on appliances and devices. I don’t want the dishwasher running while we’re having family time nearby (it’s horribly loud), and the delay start allows me to fit emptying and filling the dishwasher anywhere during the day, and I don’t even have to remember to turn it on later. Clothes dryer in the basement where you don’t hear its “I’m finished” beep? Set a timer on your phone. Nowadays we’ll go back downstairs looking for the phone long before the dryer is done.
Now, I’m a content single-tasker because I know that the efficiency of multitasking is a façade. When I focus on individual tasks, it’s amazing how productive I can be in a short amount of time. I’ll look up at the clock thinking it must be noon and it’s only 10 or sometimes 9am. That’s as close to time in a bottle that I’ve ever gotten and it feels awesome!
Life is yours for the taking, one second at a time. Live, love, learn, and enjoy!
Amanda is a behavioral health counselor, coach, writer, and midwest farmgirl. She owns Ripples of Hope Counseling, LLC and enjoys helping a variety of clients. Get immediate access to her free download "Three Invisible Barriers to Self Love and How to Hurdle Them" by signing up for her newsletter.