On most job applications, it’s highly recommended, if not required, for job seekers to have the skill of multitasking. But what is multitasking? If you were to look up the literal definition, it would simply state that multitasking is “the performance of more than one task at the same time.” In other words, constantly shifting your focus to produce quality work for each task you take on at the same time. How many of us can say that we can fully focus on multiple projects simultaneously? I mean, in a perfect world, it would be productive, satisfying, and less stressful if humans can function in this light. However, if we were to judge off the definition of multitasking, then maybe we are reaching for too much.
Think about it this way, you remember in school when the teacher would be giving a lesson on the board, and everyone would be taking notes because everything that is being said will be on the big exam the next day. Paying attention and taking notes, your friend starts to text you some juicy details of the drama that is building between them and the kid you both don’t like. You then take the time to respond and give your two cents on the situation. While time goes by you, continue to write down the notes you catch while also texting your friend, you know, multitasking. The bell goes off to mark the end of the day. That night you study your notes. The next day, you’re in the middle of taking your test and realize that a lot of what is on the test are things that you took partial notes on and topics you don’t remember your teacher talking about at all.
This was an example of a small situation that some people went through in school. When times were a bit easier to multitask between classes, activities, and a social life, now, things may be a bit different, yet still have the same mindset of how multitasking works. So, how do you multitask productively in the workplace?
It’s essential to schedule certain times to focus on specific tasks. Getting a planner can help you see your day-to-day schedule to ensure your schedule days or times to complete your task. You can also create a to-do list that can help you work on urgent tasks throughout the days leading to deadlines.
Limiting distractions like cell phone notifications, a messy desk, or even email alerts can make the difference in productive work. You might be thinking, “Aren’t emails important?”, “What if I receive an email from a client? “What if my boss emails me?”. These are all great questions, but at the same time, how often are you “in the zone” while working, then you see a pesky alert pop up on your phone or computer that notifies that you have a new email or new message. Then, the idea of checking it pops in your mind, which is where you start to lose the momentum of the work you were already working on. An excellent way to avoid having this as a distraction is by eliminating it entirely or scheduling a time to allow interruptions. This would be great for more manageable tasks that you can finish promptly or tasks that don’t necessarily need you to overthink things. You know yourself better than anyone does. So you know what kinds of tasks you can schedule to be a window for interruptions, like email alerts.
Ideally, having one project to work on would be a breeze because that’s the only one you have to think about for the day or days. However, realistically many people don’t have that luxury, as they might have many other projects to schedule. In that case, when creating your to-do list, it’s important to schedule, yes breaks, but also transition times to work on other projects. When working on one task, you have so many thoughts, ideas, and questions that you are still pondering; to prepare to start your next assignment: write them down. Think of it as a summary of where you’re at in the project. This will definitely help with more significant projects with a later deadline, so when you start to work on it again, you have something to work off of besides your concrete work.
Overall, multitasking is a word that is misleading at times; however, it is a skill that can be learned. Breaking your time up into different sections helps you produce quality results at an effective rate. Remember to consider yourself when scheduling your schedule, know how you are, what quality work you can create at certain times, and what distracts you the most. Knowing all these can help you find a schedule that best works for you, be less stressed, and be more productive.