According to an article from Attitude Magazine, research shows that doing two things at once takes about 50 percent longer than doing them sequentially. The exception to this rule is people with ADHD. Some can actually focus better if they do something, essentially mindless, while tackling an important task.
A mindless task could be playing with a fidget toy while you are in a meeting or listening to a lecture, knitting while watching TV, or doodling while talking on the phone.
Where it doesn’t work is when you are going back and forth between two important projects. I call it the "zig zag trap" and talk a lot about this with organizing your space. You want to avoid the zig zag trap of going back and forth between spaces. When you do this, it’s much harder to see your progress because you get lost and forget what's been done and what's next. Progress gives you immediate satisfaction with the job you're doing and keeps you going. So remember, when organizing, it makes sense to finish a space before moving onto to the next one.
But not everything is set up like organizing your space. What if you have three projects due at the end of the week? You may need to work on each project each day. This is not actually multitasking because it's impossible for us to two things at once, especially when they require a great deal of focus. We can’t write an article and analyze a report at the same time.
We are no longer talking about multitasking as much as we are talking about transitioning between projects.
Here are a couple of ideas on how to keep your projects on track using the example of having three projects due at the end of the week:
1) Plan Your Week - Look ahead, plan time to work on each project, and block the time out. Make sure you treat this like any other appointment and do not schedule anything else during the time unless it’s an emergency.
2) Use Alarms - Alarms are very useful when it comes to transitions. If you plan on working on a project for one hour, set an alarm at 15 minutes, to notify you that you are coming to the end of the time. Set another alarm at 5 minutes 'till the hour to notify you to close down what you are doing, and another alarm at the top of the hour to tell you to stop working.
3) Build in Buffer Time - Before you move on to your next project or appointment, build in some buffer time, instead of ending the meeting right at the top of the hour, end it at 15 minutes to the hour. I have clients who found their meetings to be more effective this way and they dealt with less stress throughout the day because they didn't feel like they were always behind.
How do you deal with transitions? If you have a great tip to share, please let us know!
Until Next Time,