I’ve read quite a few articles in the past year or two dedicated to the topic of multitasking and whether it’s an effective way of being more productive, or whether it’s a complete waste of time and not really possible. I’ve gone back and forth on it, to be honest. I used to pride myself on my ability to multitask but eventually learned that I wasn’t really being productive in that time. I could fully pay attention to two different tasks. Yet, I wasn’t pleased when I completely cut out multitasking either. There is a right way to multitask, it turns out, and that makes all the difference in whether or not you’re actually productive when doing more than one task at once. Today I want to share with you what I’ve learned about how to multitask the right way.
Pair the Right Tasks
Probably the most common reason people fail to be productive while multitasking is that they pair the wrong kinds of tasks together. If you’re attempting to multitask with two tasks that both require mental focus, then you’re likely to lose track of at least one task, and possibly both.
My favorite trick is to pair one mindless task that requires only my physical presence with one task that takes more of my concentration. Here are a few examples:
- I watch television while I fold laundry.
- I listen to podcasts while cleaning, driving, walking the dog, etc.
- I engage with others on social media while I’m standing in line at stores, Starbucks, the post office, etc.
I also multitask by using short breaks to get small jobs done. For instance, while I’m watching TV in the evenings, I’ll get up during each commercial break and get one small task done. This usually includes doing something for my blog, or a quick cleaning task such as loading the dishwasher. Along those same lines, I also utilize the time while clothes are in the washer/dryer and while food is in the oven.
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Get to Know Yourself
Just because something works for me, that doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you, or anyone else for that matter. We also work slightly different, as do our minds. A task that takes more concentration might be a simpler, more mindless task for you, and vice versa. Once you start experimenting with multitasking different tasks, you’ll get to know yourself better and get a better idea of what will allow you to be most productive.
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Remember Your Why
I’ll be honest, I’ve definitely gotten into a multitasking situation where I lose track of my original intent and end up wasting quite a bit of time. One common example for me is laundry. Folding laundry obviously doesn’t require a whole lot of brain power, so I tend to turn on the television while I’m folding. However often, once the laundry is all folded, I’ll continue watching TV instead of putting away the laundry or getting started on the next load. My initial intention when I sat down wasn’t to watch a TV show, just to entertain me while I was folding laundry, so I need to remember that!
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Don’t Overdo It
When it comes to multitasking, it’s easy to overdo it. It’s not uncommon at all to put ourselves in a position where we’re overexerting ourselves and have lost control a bit. When this happens, our productivity tends to tank pretty quickly as well! If you’re going to give multitasking a go, make sure to check in with yourself occasionally to make sure you’re still staying productive and that multitasking hasn’t overwhelmed you.
Do you multitask? Do you have any great tips for how to multitask?
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