SITUATION 33: MULTI TASKING

Femsy has a lot on her plate. She is used to working on many different tasks at the same time but feels she is unable to finish her to-do list. Boss advises her to stop multi-tasking.

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A great leader:

  • Prioritizes assignments based on their criticality and importance. She knows what activities are value-adding and works to eliminate those that waste time;
  • Takes control of her agenda and blocks out time to work on specific jobs whilst allowing some free time to deal with ad hoc things that arise during the day. She is disciplined and sets aside specific times to answer emails, chats, requests etc. rather than respond to everything as they arise;
  • Knows when she is most productive and energetic during the day and allocates blocks of time (2 hours or so) during those time slots to high priority tasks;
  • Minimizes disruptions when she is working on significant assignments so that she can focus and produce great work.

How to best handle the situation:

An article White & Lime (http://whiteandlime.com/the-dangers-of-multi-tasking/) refers to research that has shown that multi-tasking can be detrimental to your brain. Earl K Miller, Picower Professor of Neuroscience at MIT found that our brains switch frantically from one task to another when we perform several at a time, which puts more demand on our brain than if we carried out the tasks sequentially. To be more productive it is better to prioritize your workload so that you can devote time to achieving the most significant pieces of work on you ‘to-do’ list.

Before starting something, ask yourself why you should do it. Given your answer, you can determine how valuable the task is to you (and your organization) and whether it is something that you should be doing yourself or delegating.

Create deadlines for your most important assignments and stick to them! Ensure that you give yourself a significant chunk of uninterruptible time to work on these and focus on only that task.

Eliminate any distractions, for example, put headphones on if you are in a shared office, close your door and/or find a quiet room away from the hustle and bustle of the office. Do not take phone calls, answer emails, sms’s, chats, etc. during this time and make sure to let your colleagues know when you will be available for them.

 Learning suggestions:

  • Keep a journal for 2 weeks of how you feel throughout the day; when do you have the most energy? What do you get easily distracted or bored? What kind of activities do you lose yourself in for hours? Use this information to schedule your workload;
  • Estimate how long each specific job is going to take so that you can get a feel for how much time overall it will take you to complete your “to do” list. Allocate the appropriate amount of time to each task so that you can complete them to the standards you are happy with. Add some buffer time to give you a bit of flexibility if things take longer than you expect. Initially, your estimates may be off, but they will get closer to the actual time each assignment takes the more you practise. Ensure that you allocate time slots in your agenda for your most important tasks first and fill in the less critical activities second;
  • Music is known to help with concentration; however, you need to find the right music for you. Experiment with different genres of music to see what is most suitable, gets you energized (or relaxed) and in the best frame of mind to work;
  • Switch your phone to silent, or off, and experiment with different applications and techniques, such as The Pomodoro Technique (http://pomodorotechnique.com), internet-blocking software, etc. that are designed to keep you focused on the job-in-hand;
  • Make sure that your workspace is well organized and clutter-free so that you can work without distractions;

Femchallenge:

  • Do you believe the myth that multi-tasking is best? Challenge yourself to see how effective you really are when you perform several things at once compared to when you do them sequentially?

 Femcommunity tips:

We welcome your thoughts, experiences and comments on how you would deal with such a situation.

Find more on our website Femflection.com

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