I used to take such pride in my great ability to multitask. It turns out that what I was doing wasn't really doing two things at once, but rather slowing myself down by quickly switching back and forth between two things.
NPR quotes neuroscientist Earl Miller as he reminds us, “People can't multitask very well, and when they say they can, they're deluding themselves…” We are actually more likely to make mistakes and to slow ourselves down when we attempt multitasking.
Here are a few tricks to stay efficient when you're working to get a lot of stuff done quickly:
- Close down your email application (unless, of course, email is what needs to be done). Hearing an audible reminder that an email has come in, or seeing the email indicator icon appear can cause us to lose focus on what we're doing. Check your email at scheduled times and you'll actually be better able to hit your project deadlines and get back to people promptly and professionally.
- Consider scheduling meetings at odd times (not on the hour) and only schedule an hour if the problem you're attempting to solve requires that much time.
- Each morning, make a list of the three to five most important things that you need to get done that day and block time out to meet those goals. I use an electronic system for my tasks (www.rememberthemilk.com), but in this case, I go old school and write each primary goal on a sticky note.Â I stick each taskÂ on the bottom of my monitor, so I can visually track my progress toward achieving what I set out to do that day. At the end of the day, I then get the reward of checking them off in my electronic to do program and considering what is most important for the following day.
- Read Crenshaw's The Myth of Multitasking and use his time tracking system to assess and then enhance how you spend your time each day. Alternatively, check out the Emergent Task Tracker, shown on Lifehacker.
Feel overwhelmed already? Pick one of the four recommendations to start with and let us know your other tricks of the trade in the comments section.