Multitasking, said to be the 'chant' of the new age. With demands on our time increasing with the advance of time itself, multitasking is touted as the ultimate skill. Look at some of the famous names in the world...from boardrooms to ballooning over the alps, they seem to have time for everything. One day you see them at a social do, by the time you switch to another channel they are sitting on a chat show.
Wow! I say to myself, I wish I could just manage to wash my car...read a novel...catch up on the latest match...and finish my coffee with the same dexterity. Simple tasks for us simple folks. Needless to say, I fail miserably. Even at the office, if you tell me to go through the mail inbox and finish a presentation in the same breath, I will tell you not to hold your breath. I just won't be able to do it. I guess being able to juggle two or more things at once is like being ambidextrous. Some people have it and some don't. I don't, so I have left it at that.
Its not that I have never tried. I did read up on some fangled book with the ubiquitous 'How to do...' title. Went through a week with all the wisdom in it. By the end of it, I felt back on square one. Tired...stressed...and unaccomplished. 'Jack of all tasks, master of none' would quite aptly have defined my situation. I decided for myself that I am just not built for 'parallel processing'. Let me take one thing at a time. Finish one task and then move on to the next. Multitasking be damned. Back to my old ways but with a new perspective, I started focusing on ONE task, finished it but more importantly felt more involved in it. More vitally, my enjoyment factor also increased. Finally order reigned over chaos...and in this already chaotic world, its no mean feat. Perhaps, it did take me more time to go through all the tasks but the means did justify the end!
From my experiences I have found that, pound for pound multitasking is less efficient more chaotic and certainly more stressful. Their is a better way.
My prescription reads something like this:
1. Have a 'Priority List'. Don't put anything and everything into it. Do it according to decreasing order of value. Finish the most important ones first. I don't put more than 4 items on the list.
2. Keep some buffer time for unplanned work...believe me they will come out from nowhere.
3. Divide your day into 'blocks of time'. Put the respective tasks into the blocks according to your preferences. I for example put the lightest work like answering mails in the afternoon, when I am feeling drowsy.
4. Work on the most important task first thing in the morning. With that out of the way, you will find that the rest of the day goes smoother.
5. Take breaks after every hour if possible. Keep up your energy levels.
6. Take up 'monthly projects'. For e.g. Learning Photoshop is my current monthly project. I won't look at another piece of software during this time.
7. Keep phone conversations to a minimum. It's the invisible sponge which soaks away some of our most valuable time.
8. Be neat, tidy and organized. Believe me keeping a tidy desk makes a tidy mind.
9. Learn to say 'No'. Time is our most precious commodity. Protect it with a 'No'.
10. Enjoy work and play, involve yourself with complete focus.
At the end of the day, I hope your basket of work will be empty and you will have more energy to carry it around.