Multitasking the Right Way: How You Can Make the Most of Your Time
What is background tasking?
It allows you to focus on completing one task that requires your attention while also doing another task that does not need you to be consciously present. Examples of successful background tasking include:
- Reading a book while on a stationary bike
- Folding laundry while watching television
- Listening to music, a podcast, or the news while doing dishes
- Exercising while on a business call or on hold with an insurance company
- Working on your laptop while your child is receiving physical therapy
When you try to multitask all day, it causes your body to continue to pump adrenaline which builds up stress which is tied into 80% of current medical expenditures.
To improve your ability to multitask efficiently, try these simple steps:
List and Prioritize – write down everything you have to do and put them in order from the most important task to the least important. Also, assign an estimated time of completion to each task. Try to knock out a few short tasks before tackling one long one. You will feel a sense of accomplishment, and your to-do list will be shorter. You can do this on the form we provided in the box.
For example – if you have 4 tasks that must be completed by 5 pm, and 1 will take 3 hours, while the other 3 will each take 1 hour, do the 3 shorter tasks before lunch, take your break to reset your brain and contemplate the larger task at hand. Large tasks can be broken into smaller chunks. When making your list of priorities, find places for these pieces.
Schedule Your Time Wisely – Know what time of day you are most productive and schedule the hardest tasks that require the most concentration for that time. If you are not sure when you are most productive, you can monitor your efficiency over a few days. Be cognizant of when you are the most aware and energized. That is when to schedule tasks that require extra focus.
Do the Worst Task First – Putting off what you do not want to deal with only weighs you down. The sooner you complete it, the better you will feel.
Focus on the Task at Hand – Give full attention to one task at a time. Once it is complete, you can move on to the next item on your list.
Research effectively. If you have multiple projects that require internet research, do it all at once whenever possible. If you need to look up facts, supplies, purchases, or information, keep a notebook handy with a separate page for each task. Write down on each page the things you need to search and do them all at once. This way, when you begin your tasks you will already have everything you need.
Take occasional Short Breaks – You cannot continue to go full steam all day. Better functioning follows brief breaks such as taking a short walk, stretching, closing your eyes for a few minutes and meditating. Only five minutes is necessary to recharge your batteries.
Always take a break in between tasks, even if it is just for a moment or two and clear your head of the previous task. Think about what you are going to accomplish next and make a mental record of the steps you will take to tackle this.
Minimize interruptions – frequent interruptions cause you to lose focus. To avoid falling behind on your task, do not answer the phone or check emails until you are done. Close your door and try not to allow interruptions whenever possible during a task. Ask others to hold off unless something is pressing or move to a private place to take care of what needs to be done. Remember – every interruption sets you back because you have to refocus.
Delegate When Possible – Is there someone else who can accomplish any of the items on your list? This step is also about letting go. You do not have to do it all yourself, and it does not always have to look the same as when you do it. So what if your husband folded the sheets or towels wrong? In the grand scheme of life, does it really matter?
Finish one Thing Before Moving on – Whenever possible, complete an item before turning your focus elsewhere. If you must deal with an interruption, make some notes about where you left off and what you were going to do next. That will make it easier to pick back up and complete the project.
Schedule email Checks – You do not have to read and answer every email right when it arrives. Unless it is an urgent email that requires your attention, leave it until later. AT THE VERY MOST CHECK IT ONCE AN HOUR unless you are waiting for an urgent email. Even checking emails once an hour can lead to a loss of 30 to 40 minutes of productivity in a day.
Another common email slow-down is leaving read emails in your inbox. Organize them into reference folders, a to-do list, or your calendar. Act the first time you read the email so that you do not lose time and productivity reading it again.
Close Your Facebook Tab – Social media is a dangerous habit that can eat away at a large portion of your day.
Take Your Time – Rushing through a task can lead to mistakes. Slow down and concentrate on getting it done right the first time. Having to redo a task because of mistakes doubles the amount of time you spent on that task.
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