Multi-Tasking: good use of time, or a waste of time?

Ok, so what are you doing right now apart from reading this article?  Having a cup of coffee?  Skimming your emails to check for anything important?  Thinking about how you are going to tackle a customer or employee issue?  Wondering what to cook for dinner this evening?

The chances are you are doing more than one thing right now so is this good use of your time or is this actually ineffective use of your time?

Whilst many of us were brought up to believe that multi-tasking was a good thing and something that women are much better at than men; growing research is actually telling us that multi-tasking on the whole is not a good thing. In fact, multi-tasking can reduce productivity by up to 40% according to some researchers.

People tend to multi-task in two ways: either by completing more than one task at one time (for example, having a telephone conversation whilst sending an email) or by switching between lots of different tasks.  However, studies which have looked at people both switching between tasks and completing a number of tasks in quick succession, have demonstrated that more time is lost by doing so (Rogers and Monsell).  This decrease in productivity is lost further when completing complex tasks (Rubenstein, Evans and Meyer).

So if you are a multi-tasker and want to increase your productivity take one task at a time and focus on them until they are complete.  Also analyse what interrupts your working day most e.g., emails or staff asking to see you; and develop ways that ensure that these can be incorporated into the day without distracting you from the task on hand.

How to stay organised when you’re surrounded by chaos!

It’s that time of year when it feels like I need to upgrade from ‘proficient juggler’ to ‘master juggler of all’.  After spending the year successfully juggling work, looking after the home, child activities and the like, Christmas comes along and the demands shoot through the roof. Christmas present buying, wrapping, nativities, carol services, parties (that’s the children’s – not mine), hosting dinners…the list goes on.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and and frazzled but here’s my survial guide so you can stay organised even when there’s total chaos:

  1. Clean your desk!  If you have a tidy area to work in it will be easier to focus (you won’t get distracted by all the mess and you won’t be able to put off those tasks by starting to tidy).  Make sure everything has a place, that way you know exactly where to find things and you won’t waste time that you don’t have!
  2. Keep only one calendar.  This may sound obvious but so many people I know have a calendar for home, another for work and another tucked away on their handbag!  This leads to forgotten birthdays, double-bookings and more chaos when you really don’t need it.  Keep one diary so you only need to look in one place.
  3. Check important events coming up. Duh, of course.   But how many times have you got to that date in your diary and realised you haven’t done the planning, the important presentation, the buying of gifts…?  Check the dates of your events and if there’s anything you need to do for that event then add it in for at least a week before.
  4. List all of your goals. What is it you need to achieve?  Be specific and set deadlines – your one calendar will really come in handy for this!
  5. Review your goals weekly.  Think about what you need to do this week to move you closer to your goals.  Add those tasks or actions to your calendar (yes, it’s still one).
  6. Check your calendar daily and make a list!  Well, that’s what I do – because I love lists!  Do whatever, you need to do to be focused on those tasks for the day and complete each task in turn (multi-tasking will only lead to more chaos – but that’s another topic!).