Multi-tasking is one of those things that we can all do, even if we don’t know when we’re doing it. For example, I am great at watching television while cooking dinner and annoying my cat.
When it comes to business and professional stuff, though, it gets dicey. It’s easy to feel like you’re phoning it in when you don’t give each thing you’re doing your absolute and full attention. At the same time, there are some things that can be multi-tasked without you feeling like a slacker.
Here are some tricks that you can use to help get more done each day.
1. Figure out which tasks lend themselves to multi-tasking.
For example, listening to voicemail in the mornings will help you put together your to-do list for that day. It can also be done while sorting your emails (note that this does not say reading those emails). It is not a good idea, however, to listen to voicemail while responding to email.
2. Pair a mindless task with a focused task.
Returning calls in the afternoons and setting up meetings, for example, lends itself nicely to tasks like organizing your calendar, cleaning off your desktop, and sorting through files. It isn’t a good idea to return phone calls while working on a report.
3. Don’t take multi-tasking so literally.
Multi-tasking does not have to mean literally doing two or more tasks simultaneously. It can mean switching back and forth from one task to another quickly. For example, spending fifteen minutes on one thing, then another, and then another, counts as multi-tasking as well. This type of multi-tasking is good for activities that you might find boring or tedious, like filing, data entry, etc.
4. Only multi-task things that won’t fall apart if you get interrupted.
Writing a detail-oriented and research-heavy report, for example, should not be done if you are in an area where people will be coming by to talk or when you know that people are likely to be calling you. Catching up on industry news, ordering supplies, etc.—getting interrupted while you do those things isn’t that big a deal.
5. Carry busy work with you to do while you’re waiting.
For example, all of those reports that you have to read? Read them while you are waiting for a client to arrive for meetings or on your commute (but not if you are driving). This counts as multi-tasking as well and will free up your work day for more focus-oriented tasks.
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There is some debate as to whether or not multi-tasking is actually helpful to business professionals. Some insist that it is easier to get through the day when you focus only on one thing at a time (the exception being having something on as background noise, like music or news).
As you continue to work at your business, however, you are going to need to find a way to multi-task at least a few things. That’s when tips like these can come in handy.