Make the Most of a Tight Schedule: Multitask Correctly

Multitasking is usually a mistake. Most of the time, what you are really doing is switching your attention back and forth from one activity to another. While it seems you are doing two or more things at once, usually you are just lowering your productivity and as much as 30%. This is pretty commonly known by now, so why am I advocating multitasking?

While you cannot divide your attention between two cognitive activities (e.g., responding to emails while you write a report), you can combine a physical effort with a mental effort. You probably do something like this already; such as pondering what to get for whom as holiday gifts while you walk from store to store in the mall. When your schedule becomes overwhelmed, try doing this purposefully.

Ideas for mindful tasks:

  • Listening to a podcast
  • Writing the outline of an article
  • Coming up with topic ideas for an article
  • Coming up with research ideas
  • Creating a timeline for a project
  • Putting together your weekly food shopping list

Ideas for mindless tasks:

  • Running
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Standing in line
  • Doing the dishes
  • Doing the laundry
  • Walking to the store
  • Walking your dog

The key is to do this casually, without putting any pressure on yourself to be productive. After all, writer’s block often strikes when you are staring at a blank word processor document with a looming deadline. And creative insights often hit us unexpectedly, such as in the shower. Next time you get caught in a traffic jam or a long line at the store, keep your frustration in check and instead start thinking about your next project.

 

Eva Rykrsmith

Eva Rykrsmith is an organizational psychology practitioner. Her passion lies in bringing a psychology perspective to the business world, with the mission of creating a high-performance environment. Follow her @EvaRykr.

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