Imagine the scene. You’re at a trendy coffee shop, sipping the venti latte in your right hand while checking movie times on your IPad with your left. At the same time, you’re talking on your cel phone making a hair appointment, while exchanging some meaningful eye-contact with the hottie across the room. You’re in a hurry to get to class so you mentally congratulate yourself for being able to get it all done. Does this mean you’re a good multitasker?
Multitasking is the ability to maintain a timely delivery schedule for a constantly changing roster of multiple projects. This is one of the most frequently used words in job postings and therefore one of the most sought-after skills of the new world of work.
Yet most people don’t understand what multitasking entails.
According to numerous studies, the multitasking demands of modern professional life are causing massive frustration and emotional trauma for professionals everywhere. However, the problem is NOT multitasking, the problem is the assumption that multitasking means being reactive to all incoming stimuli and therefore jumping around from one task to another as the emergency of the moment dictates. Such a definition of multitasking would of course leave you feeling that wild horses are attached to your extremities and tearing you limb from limb.
Few people understand that multitasking is not being continually distracted by the latest incoming stimuli; instead, multitasking skills are built on sound time management and organizational abilities. Here are the basics to help you understand, execute, and talk intelligently about your multitasking capabilities:
Multitasking is based on three things:
- Establishing priority activities for your day
- Building a plan based on your established priorities
- Sticking to your plan and managing your time based on the priorities itemized in your plan.
The Plan, Do, Review Cycle
At the end of every day you review the day:
- What happened: a.m. and p.m.?
- What went well? Do more of it.
- What went wrong? How do I fix it? Where can I get advice?
- What priorities do I need to put on tomorrow’s plan?
- Rank each priority: A = must be completed tomorrow. B = Good to be completed tomorrow. C = if there is spare time from A and B priorities.
- Make a prioritized To-Do list.
- Come to work the next day and execute your plan, unless management gives you a new “A” priority.
Doing this at the end of the day keeps you informed about what you have achieved, and lets you know that you have invested your time in the most important activities today and will do the same tomorrow, so you feel better, sleep better, and come into the office in the morning focused and ready to be productive.
Now, imagine yourself back at the coffee shop. Take a deep breath, wipe the latte foam off your lap and think about what just happened. You rushed out without charging your IPad so it actually died before you got to see those movie times you wanted. You scheduled your hair appointment but you don’t actually know when it is because you didn’t have a free hand or electronic device available to write it down. And thank goodness the hottie was looking the other way when you dropped the latte in your lap so you can slink away with your pride and gadgets intact. The moral of this story? Don’t spin haphazardly from one task to another. Follow the Plan, Do, Review cycle so that you can multitask with purpose and dramatically increase your productivity.
For more advice on productivity, check out Knock Em Dead – Secrets & Strategies For First-Time Job Seekers.
Martin Yate, CPC, is one of the world’s foremost experts in the business of job search and career management. The author of Knock ‘Em Dead 2013: The Ultimate Job Search Guide and fourteen other career books, Yate is published in countless languages around the world and has helped millions change the trajectory of their lives. Learn more at www.knockemdead.com.