… and that’s what we’re going to cover here.
If you haven’t read it already, go back and check it out if only to see that even Yoda was guilty of trying to spread himself too thin in that article.
Level 1 which does not need any help.
Level 3 which is so rare and difficult to attain that it cannot be seen as a long-term multitasking solution.
Clearly, the one that is of interest to us is level 2 and that’s the one we will be referring to for the rest of the article.
So how to become better at multitasking…
Let’s start first by candidly asking whether multitasking is desirable.
Do You Really Want To Mutlitask?
Multitasking is often required in the workplace or at home when you juggle life and family requirements.
It’s often seen as a positive: more things can get achieved in the same amount of time.
But, as we’ve seen earlier, this is simply not true.
Multitasking is dividing your attention.
- you’re skimming information to get through as many tasks as possible, OR
- you’re switching from a task to another losing time and accuracy as you do so.
In both cases, you do a lot but achieve little to a good standard. You’re also not taking any time to enjoy any task as your purpose simply becomes that of finishing everything quickly to move on to the next task.
That’s why, multitasking, which was once praised, is now starting to get a bad name.
But … let’s be pragmatic here. Not all tasks need to be performed to perfection. Not all tasks require 100% of your brain power.
Being able to multitask or, more accurately, being able to manage how and when you divide your attention is a useful skill to have. One that you can learn and improve.
What Makes Some People Better at Multitasking than Others?
It’s not how many tasks you can take on that makes you good at multitasking but how well you deliver on each.
And that quality depends on several factors:
- how familiar you are with the tasks (the more proficient you are at one task, the more brain power you can dedicate to the other ones)
- how much practice you have at performing these tasks simultaneously (the more practice, the better you get)
- how good you are at switching your attention from task to another
Being a woman might give you a slight advantage because of a physiological difference: the area between the 2 hemisphere of the brain called corpus callosum would be larger in women than men. This area helps synthesize information from each hemisphere. However, scientists still argue over this and I wouldn’t count just on this to be good at multitasking. The proof: I’m not good at it!
So How Do You Become Better at Multitasking?
- Know your own abilities
Are you good at attention switching?
If not, make sure you concentrate and limit all distractions when you work on important tasks.
- Know and plan your tasks
Do all your tasks require your full attention?
Some of your tasks can be grouped if they can suffer a loss of quality. If however, the tasks and their outcomes are important, then drop the rest and pay attention.
In other word, organize your multitasking according to the difficulty of your tasks and how important their outcomes are for you.
- Keep the end in sight
If you multitask, don’t just hop from a project to another without finishing anything.
Make sure you set yourself deadlines and achieve what you set yourself to do.
- Practice the tasks on their own first
The more practice you have, the more natural they are to you, the easier they will be to combine with other tasks.
- Communicate more when you multitask
Let people know when you multitask so they can catch your mistakes, double-check your meaning and compensate your partial attention with their own focus.
- Accept that sometimes slowing down is actually making up time
It’s better to do something important once and do it right (then you can get on with the rest of your tasks) than wasting time with rework and impacting the rest of your day.
Here’s a quote by Napoleon that I really like: Dress me slowly, for I am in a great rush.
Use multitasking by all means but be clever about it.
Know your abilities, use your judgement and remember:
Messing up 2 tasks at once is not multitasking 😉