Do you feel like all you ever do is multitask? I do. I’m constantly thinking about other tasks when I’m supposed to be focusing on one, and usually at the wrong times. It’s exhausting! Like when you’re in a meeting and are put on the spot with a question, but you were actually emailing a client and now have to make up an answer in front of everyone. Embarrassing.
With all of the technology available at our fingertips, we have capabilities we have never had before in terms of productivity. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that we have more tools to help with productivity; however, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword.
Working at a public relations and digital marketing agency, I have to be flexible, a multitasker and quick at any moment. However, in any industry, there is a time and place where you must be present and focus on one thing at a time. Plus, multitasking doesn’t always lead to productivity.
Fast Company recently posted an awesome chart that shows when you should and shouldn’t multitask. Reference it if you need some insight on when doing multiple tasks at a time helps you succeed and when it doesn’t.
Being present is important in everyday life, as well as in your career. I always want to live more in the moment, but life pulls me in all different directions. It can be hard to develop an attention span that will allow you to focus, especially when we live in a world of notifications and alerts on every tablet, computer, watch and phone we own.
So, how do you know when multitasking can be dangerous or a good thing? Let’s look at the Fast Company chart and personal examples for some tips.
Stay present and don’t multitask when…
You’re in a meeting. The biggest thing that comes to mind for me is multitasking during a meeting. Whether you are an entry-level employee or a VP of your company, don’t check emails, Slack in other conversations or respond to other clients during meetings. It’s hard not to, but show respect to your co-workers that you are listening because this is when mistakes are made and details are missed. You want to be sure you are adding value to meetings and taking away important next steps without being that person who asks the same questions later. If you’re on a client call, this is even more crucial!
The task at hand is complex. I know it’s hard to block off time in your day to only focus on one task. If you are tasked with a project that requires a significant amount of steps, research, details, etc., don’t multitask. Block your calendar for a few hours so meetings aren’t scheduled. This also forces you to be reminded ‘oh hey, I need to really sit down and do this right now.’ Throw your headphones on, put on your DND and do your best work!
You’re prepping for an interview or presentation. Ideally, when prepping for an interview, you are focused and thinking through any possible questions they could ask you. But while you are waiting for that interview, don’t let the notifications get you! When I’m waiting on things or just finally relaxing, I tend to automatically hit Instagram or check emails. Don’t do this! It can be distracting and make you lose focus on the things you are supposed to be prepping for. The same goes for presentations, no matter how big or small. Remember your 5 P’s: Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.
Multitask and knock things out when…
Your task requires little focus or is a habit. Sometimes you have those tactical and monotonous tasks that you do on an ongoing basis. It’s safe to multitask during this type of work because it doesn’t take long and it’s probably muscle memory by now.
When you have multiple tasks that are alike. My to-do list gets bogged down with a lot of little things like emailing different clients to follow up or sending meeting invites. Grouping tasks that are similar, yet urgent, is helpful. Prioritize your to-do list and knock these tasks out all at once.
Updating your to-do list. Throughout the day, when I’m working and running in and out of meetings, I constantly update my to-do list. A new tool I’m using that my some of my colleagues swear by is Todoist. It’s a great way to stay organized and you can easily update it on your computer (and eliminates the number of sticky notes on your desk).
So, have you found that multitasking has sometimes led to pitfalls? Has it led to success? We want to know how you manage your day-to-day and when you choose to stay present.