Multitasking is simply defined as the practice of carrying out multiple tasks at once. While many consider it a myth, to others it is a lifesaver. To many, there is no such thing as multitasking and focusing on one thing at a time is their mantra. There are multiple researches supporting the evidence that multitasking disrupts concentration and results in subpar work results or increased time to finish tasks. On the other hand, it is also deemed an essential to students and professionals in many instances to get their coursework or deliverables done.
While multitasking might be an individual and inborn talent rather than an acquired skill, there are certainly ways to get better at it. A few simple steps to master the art of multitasking are discussed below.
It is important to remember that not all tasks can be done parallel to some other tasks. Some tasks will require one's undivided attention and some will need to be done away with immediately. Thus, the first step is to make a list of things to be done.
Prioritise the list
The second step is to prioritise the to-do list based on deadlines and by the criteria whether it is a task that can be multitasked. For example, one has three tasks at hand and limited time. The three tasks involve getting an assignment done, studying for a test and discussing a group project online. In this example, studying for the test is both important and requires more attention than the other two. Thus, it might be wiser to first study for the test and then discuss the project online while doing the assignment simultaneously. Prioritising tasks and categorising whether they are multitask-able gets half the work done. Rather than wasting valuable time at failed attempts, a simple exercise such as this helps a lot.
Use task apps
In this era of smartphones, internet and apps, multitasking is a lot easier with the help of various task apps such as Google Keep, Google Calendar, Wunderlist, Todoist, Things etc. Integrating tasks and workflows with such apps helps one to better track the progress of the tasks at hand. It helps to keep track of the deadlines and makes the first two steps discussed easier. It also provides notifications prior to deadlines reminding one of tasks to be completed in case of forgetfulness. It helps to tick of tasks more efficiently than using the traditional pen and paper.
Turn off internet notifications
A useful strategy to follow while multitasking is to keep unnecessary notifications shut down. Notifications such as social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram might pop up every now and then and act as distractions. Chat invitations, notifications of photos being uploaded or group posts from friends can urge one to browse through the contents and require share of one's limited attention span. Even email notifications can be distracting. Since multitasking already requires dividing efforts and concentration into multiple tasks, one less distraction is a win in this situation. Thus, turning off internet notifications is helpful in this regard.
Choose the common tasks
One of the tricks of choosing tasks to do simultaneously is to choose tasks that one does on a regular basis. Familiarity with a job allows one to get operationally efficient. This enables one to carry out the task without much mental effort, thus requiring lesser concentration and easier to carry on while doing something else. It will be foolish to try multitasking something that one is doing for the first time. A first time task requires understanding the course of action, time and concentration required and most importantly understanding whether it is multitask-able at all. Thus, one should choose tasks that are commonly done, regular and those over which one has total control.
In order to make multitasking more efficient, it is important to give the brain adequate rest and chance to recharge and refuel. Multitasking is strenuous and can wear one out, thus reducing one's efficiency in upcoming tasks. Hence, it is advisable to do tasks in small courses, celebrate small victories and take breaks to set one's mind free for the rest of the tasks.
The art of multitasking can definitely improve over time. However, there is no one size fits all formula for this. Each person is unique with unique strengths and ways of doing things. Each person has a different attention span and requires different level of concentration and effort to get things done. Thus, to improve the skill of multitasking is a matter of trial and error coupled with a personal touch. And while it will require trials over a period of time, following a few easy simple steps can help to reach the goal faster.
The writer, after finishing her undergrads from IBA, University of Dhaka, is currently working in a financial institution. She can be reached at
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