Many of us multitask without even realising it. It could be chatting on the phone while cooking dinner, folding the laundry while on a zoom call or listening to music while writing an essay – all of us can multitask, even just a little.
But what can you do if you want to develop your multitasking skills to become more productive?
Multitasking is an important professional skill to bring to the workplace. Learning how to multitask effectively is vital and, when done correctly, you’ll see a dramatic improvement in your performance in the workplace.
Do you want to become a better multitasker for the future workplace? Here are our 15 tips to help you get started.
1. Plan ahead
Planning ahead of time is a great way to manage your workload and set realistic objectives. We’re all guilty of leaving something to the last minute, but with the help of a productivity planner or a simple to-do list, you can boost your time management and organisational skills.
A great place to start is building a weekly plan with micro and macro goals and then creating a daily schedule that will allow you to complete your objectives.
2. Use online tools
If you need extra assistance, there are plenty of online tools to keep you on track. Not only will they help you organise your workload, but you’ll also be able to access your plan online anywhere you go. This is useful if you’re on the go often or want to access your plan from multiple devices.
A good app to try is Trello - a free online platform for individuals and teams that allows you to manage projects and organise tasks all in one place!
3. Prioritise your tasks
Before you set off, take time to prioritise your tasks and plan accordingly. Perhaps there is an urgent pending task that requires your attention, or a colleague is waiting for you to complete a report before they can proceed with their own errands.
Either way, knowing where to start and where to direct your attention is crucial - and knowing how to prioritise effectively and where to place your energy first is an excellent way to improve your multitasking abilities in the workplace.
4. Filter out unnecessary tasks
Before you begin, review your list of tasks and remove any that are unnecessary. What can be delegated to someone else? What is better left for another day? Have you written anything down twice?
By maintaining a concise and manageable list, you save yourself from feeling overwhelmed and have the chance to focus solely on important and urgent duties.
5. Combine related assignments
When you switch between tasks often, you will notice a drop in your productivity, energy and focus. This is due to the fact that switching through tasks frequently can be taxing for the brain.
Instead, try grouping related tasks and working on them simultaneously. This will prevent you from slowing down your progress and make your multitasking more effective.
This is another reason why planning ahead is so essential – look at your goals first and organise your schedule by combining any related tasks.
6. Create a workspace
A comfortable working environment can significantly improve the way you work and aid productivity. Avoiding clutter and disorder and modifying the space to your needs can go a long way when it comes to productivity and multitasking.
Having a designated place for your work will not only limit distractions but remove any interruptions that could disrupt your workflow.
7. Manage any distractions
While you may do your absolute best to remove potential distractions, some may be unavoidable. If you tend to procrastinate or lose focus at work, try cleaning your workspace and removing stimulus that could distract you.
While workplace distractions can sometimes be out of your control, do your best to manage your surroundings. You could also consider investing in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones or an app blocker to keep you off social media during designated hours.
8. Find enjoyment in what you do
It’s no secret that productivity soars when we enjoy what we’re doing. According to research conducted by the University of Warwick, happiness makes people 12% more productive.
So, anything you can do to make your tasks more enjoyable is worth doing. If you can’t find a way to make the work itself more fun, rewarding yourself whenever you finish a task is another great way to create a more positive experience for yourself as you juggle through different assignments.
9. Put quality over quantity
According to USC, multitasking affects your brain’s efficiency, leading to more mistakes and less retained information. So, remember, multitasking could negatively affect the quality of your work if not done with caution.
So, ensure that the tasks you choose to multitask are completed with attention, so the quality doesn’t suffer for the quantity of work you get done. That means you may have to dedicate more time to multitasking two or three things to avoid rushing through them. This brings me to the next point…
11. Plan extra time for each task
Delays happen – and sometimes they are completely out of our hands. Whether a task has taken longer than expected, you’re waiting on something from another colleague, or your productivity levels have dropped, allocating extra time for your tasks is crucial.
By preparing for the unexpected, you’ll avoid last-minute sprints to complete your tasks, which often results in poor quality work. And if everything goes to plan, you have extra time to review your work or reward yourself!
10. Take frequent breaks
Remember, multitasking doesn’t mean you have to be busy at all times. If you’ve planned your timeline effectively, you should have time to recalibrate and rest. Without rest, you could find yourself experiencing burnout and, as a result, producing work of a lower standard.
Stand up, walk around and make yourself a cup of coffee – even if you spend a 10-minute break from your work, you can boost your workflow.
12. Review your progress
Reviewing your progress and crossing out completed assignments is a great way to stay motivated – especially if you have a long list!
If you are working on a larger project with a set timeline, this can also help you determine whether you’re on track and can meet your goals within the deadline. If you’re behind, it may be time to shift your priorities to manage your stakeholders’ expectations.
Multitasking becomes easier through practice. If you want to expand your capabilities, several online multitasking tests and training resources are available to you.
And if that’s not for you, try integrating multitasking into your everyday routine instead. For instance, you can combine physical tasks, such as ironing, with aural tasks, such as listening to a podcast.
14. Be kind to yourself
There is a time and place for multitasking. While it can be a very effective tool that can increase your productivity levels, overworking yourself could quickly lead to burnout.
Remember to check in with yourself and be kind. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, it may be a good indication to revaluate your tasks and workload.
Drinking plenty of water, eating well and getting enough sleep will keep you healthy and your brain sharp.
15. Understand what works for you
The more you practise multitasking, the better you’ll understand what works for you. Perhaps you need to listen to music, or you prefer total silence. Maybe you are more productive in the evening, or you can only focus first thing in the morning. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to multitask as everyone is different. By knowing under which circumstances you work best, you’ll be able to finetune your process and become an expert multitasker!
So, these are some of the best ways to become a better multitasker and improve your workplace productivity!
Do you have any other tips? Share them with us in the comments section below!
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 12 September 2017.