Ahhh life. There are so many things that we have to do and want to do and then God went and created the 24 hour day. Just how did they get it all done back in B.C. times? For one thing, they didn’t have social media. Their kids didn’t have 16 activities and events in a week, and also…they knew what their priorities were. Well, besides survival.
Even in this modern age, there is no reason why we can’t refocus our attention on what truly matters to us and still be highly productive. I’ve dedicated part of my career to teaching these learned traits to professionals, so I refuse to be stingy and not adapt them to fit real life.
“When people think that they are multi-tasking, they are actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly and every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.”
– Eric Miller an MIT neuroscientist (so I’m going to take his word for it.)
If you are talking to a person, typing an email and trying to roast a chicken, something is going to fail. You are stressing yourself and are going to blow your adrenals if you continuously insist on running on cortisol. However, there is a way to multi-task and all it takes is some thought before hand, some practice, and lo and behold it becomes a habit. If naturally becoming a relaxed multi-tasker is something that you want in life, I encourage you to adopt these habits as this is how I did it for myself.
Consider the amount of time involved in the task
If it is a task that requires stretches of concentration like financial bookkeeping, drafting an important document, or polishing your resume, it’s best not to split this time with any other tasks. Instead, try budgeting one hour or more that is dedicated just to these kinds of must dos. Even if the time has to be split up into half hour increments and you set a timer, that is still better than continuously picking up where you left off which makes us more apt to make mistakes.
Use the Low/Low method
Ok, so I invented this method when I would watch people run around like mad working on three things at once, only to end up tangled up and spending all the time that they were trying to save un-cluster the cluster. I’m not going to say that I’ve never done this, I’m just saying that I didn’t realize what I looked like until I saw other people doing it.
When I went to analyze what wasn’t working in all of the above scenarios, I realized that I, and those people, were working on high priority things simultaneously. As it is, adrenaline can rush when we are working on high stakes or high intensity matters. If you’re about to hop on a vital phone call that’s going to determine your future, is that really the best time to be answering an important email to your child’s teacher?
The Low/Low method is completing one low brain power task while in the mist of another low brain power task. This leaves the little things out of the way so that more time can be spent dedicated to the bigger and more important things. Examples of a Low/Low method in play are such things as streaming a documentary that you wanted to watch while purging your personal files, or folding laundry while catching up with a relative on the phone, or using your phone hold time to add staples to your stapler and organize a desk drawer, or answering personal emails while dinner is cooking (as long as the timer is set!) You get the point.
Group Similar Tasks Together
Going back to my post on the 4 day work system, you’ll remember that system is dedicated to this theory. However, if that isn’t a system that you enjoy using, you can still group tasks together throughout the day. For instance, if I have to do laundry, I will strip the beds right then and take that time to dust and vacuum the room while the sheets are not there to collect the fallout. If I’m answering emails, I will answer all correspondence, write my letters/emails and make my phone calls. Finding out what is more alike than different with regard to your daily tasks is as simple as giving it a little thought.
Email Volume Management
At the end of the day, my email inbox is empty and no more than 5 messages are “pinned” to the top and are categorized by color; red is urgent, blue is follow up, green are events to calendar etc.
All junk gets deleted and blocked, answered communications get archived and most of my regular emails come in on one long thread thanks to unrollme.com. This handy little free subscription service “catches” your emails and keeps them to be delivered once daily at a time that you chose. If you get something routinely that you haven’t placed on the subscription, it will hold it in it’s “inbox” and ask you what you want to do with it from now on. I never miss my coupons from CVS, but at the same time my inbox is no longer stuffed full of promotion emails that I actually want, but don’t have to weed through to get to the ones from friends, or business colleagues looking to get in touch. For other routine things I have set up “special folders” to have certain emails deposited into categories like “action”, “newsletters”, etc. If my action folder has a message, I check that first rather than the newsletters folder that I can check when I have leisure time.
The one thing that we have to learn as a species is to stop instantly responding to the constant bells and beeps. Knowing that everything is being automatically filed for you to get to when you can, and the peace of mind that it is so organized that you can check in one glance to see if there is anything urgent is beautiful. It is well worth the time to dedicate a few hours getting to know your email system.
In conclusion, you can in fact multi-task and do it well. The bottom line is what are you multi-tasking? If you change that, then you will be much more comfortable in attempting to multi-task.
I am a blogger who is all about efficiency and keeping the overhead low. I love balance, calm, organization, and budgeting. This is NOT to say that my life is like that all of the time! But these systems are tried, true, and they help me so I aim to pass on the information for you to build upon.