Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Does it seem like doing only one thing at a time isn't enough anymore? For multitasking to save you time, it has to be done with a little care and attention.

Establish your goals. The old saying, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there" is just as true even if you are following multiple tasks.
Schedule a time to give intense or complex tasks your full focus. Let it be known that you prefer to have time to yourself for an hour or two each day, and use that time for intense tasks that require your full concentration.
Work on one thing at a time, but alternate. A juggler may have many objects in the air, but she usually manipulates only one at a time.
Eliminate unnecessary tasks. If you're multitasking to be more efficient, don't spend time doing extra things. The exception is a background activity to help pass the time. For instance, if listening to the radio or a book on tape helps with the tedium of painting a wall, go for it.
Choose compatible tasks. For instance, you may find that reading and listening to speech both use the same type of focus. Instead, try pairing a physical task, such as ironing clothes, with a mental task, such as listening to the radio.
Choose interruptible tasks. Especially if the multitasking consists of dealing with frequent interruptions (such as a ringing telephone), choose tasks that can be easily paused to do concurrently.
Keep a selection of smaller projects or simpler tasks around to fill gaps in a larger project. That is, do the larger project as a priority, but do basic, filler tasks any time you find yourself waiting for information or inspiration on a larger project.
Use wait time efficiently. Have something with you to do, especially in places you anticipate waiting (the airport, post office, or dentist's office). Reading is an easy, portable task. Carrying note cards or a notebook to jot ideas is also a good idea.

Take the time to plan a bit. Even though planning is not doing, a good plan can make the doing more complete.
Take along something else to do in a meeting, especially if you expect it to include topics that don't involve you. If a meeting will include enough topics that don't involve you, arrange to attend only the relevant parts, or don't attend at all.
Notice what works and what doesn't. If homework in front of the TV takes twice as long as doing homework and watching a show separately would, don't pair those tasks in the future.

Don't overdo it. Don't do so many things at once that none gets done. Also, don't take on so much that you burn out.
Always give your full concentration to tasks that might have safety consequences


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