What Is The Modern Way To MultiTask?

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During the working day, we battle with frequent interruptions, competing priorities, clashing deadlines and unexpected requests. Being able to deep dive and give all our undivided attention to one task is rare. So, despite a growing trend within business management towards monotasking, the reality is that most of us have to get good at juggling multiple things – and this is why a question about how you handle multi-tasking is pretty much a standard on most job interviews. However, there is definitely a difference between working effectively with a split focus and doing badly on multiple tasks. What is the best way to multi-task well? Could it be connected to that old truism about working harder, not smarter?

Plan Out Your Split Focus

Working on two or more things may be unavoidable, but you should at least plan out what those two things are going to be. Some tasks sit together easier than others – for example, you may be able to do some light admin like checking an expense report while on a conference call, but anything which requires more concentration is unlikely to go well. Take a moment to consider what tasks are on your to-do list and what will be compatible, then pair them up ahead of time instead of randomly working on different things.

Use Technology Effectively

Using technology can give a real boost to your efforts. Using a split screen app can help you to focus on two documents at the same time, or a document and a Web browser, for instance. Tools like Gmail CRM mean you don’t need to waste time hunting for contact details, can follow up on leads straight from your inbox and can project manage and collaborate with colleagues and reports easily without exiting the app. In addition, your smartphone can work a lot harder for you. Download SlideControl and you can switch apps, take shortcuts to your contacts and create custom one-swipe side bars with categories and launch them with a single gesture – or pair apps together to run simultaneously in a single split screen.

Keep On Top Of What Needs To Be Done

If you work in a busy environment with a lot going on, it’s all too easy for tasks to slip through the cracks. Avoid this happening by investing time in creating effective systems to process your work flow effectively. In these types of set ups, work tends to be mostly reactive and driven by the environment, rather than being internally driven. This means that whichever project or client shouts the loudest gets the most attention, and is not an effective long-term strategy. Combat this by working through a prioritisation matrix to ensure that each task occurs in the correct order – while still allowing time for a certain amount of unavoidable reactive work as well. Keep your to do list for each day well in sight to ensure that you don’t neglect things accidentally.

Use Quieter Periods To Process New Information

The main problem with continuous multitasking is that it can interfere with your ability to effectively process new information – and in a leadership position that is a real risk. The process of acquiring new information simply doesn’t sit will with multiple other tasks. You may often find that you get to the end of a meeting where you’ve been multi-tasking, only to find you can recall the name of that new client or what the solution decided on for a particular issue was! Deal with that by making sure you have quieter periods in the workday where you can take in new information without distraction. Read any new documents and do something to process the information – either summarising it in a memo or communicating it onto others works well to help you properly take in the information. This means you can use the rest of your working time to multitask without compromising your ability to solidify new incoming information.

Be Ruthless About Distractions

You may be trying to cover off multiple projects, but one thing you really don’t want to contend with is yet more distractions coming in. So become ruthless about getting rid of interruptions. This can be especially hard if you directly manage people, who will naturally want to come to you with queries about the things they’re working on. Set up a regular time where you have an open desk policy, even just an hour a day, and then make it clear that you won’t be able to be interrupted outside of that time. Likewise, try to batch process your emails rather than jumping to them everytime a new notification shows up on screen. Protect your time by rooting out unnecessary meetings as well – consider if you really need to be there or whether you could delegate and request a precis from whoever attends in your place- this can also be a great opportunity for others to stretch themselves and be exposed to higher level projects, so it can also be used to fulfill some staff development goals at the same time.

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