Time Management

by Di McLanachan

Multi-tasking

You’re pushed for time and there’s loads to do. You’re probably feeling the pressure and you have a limited amount of time to do what’s required. What can you do?

  • You can lower your standards – this may not sound like a good idea, but it is possible to be such a perfectionist (Type B) that you waste an inordinate amount of time on relatively trivial tasks.
  • You can get help – below, we suggest some ways you might do this.
  • You can work faster – or can you? There are some ways of doing this: for example, you might group like tasks together in order to get through them more quickly.
  • You can plan better (and hopefully you will by now have found several techniques that work for you).
  • And you can multi-task.

Multi-tasking is a very misunderstood activity. Most people claim to be multi-tasking, when what they are really doing is wearing themselves out trying to do too many things at once (a typical Type A dilemma). Here are some tips for helping you multi-task effectively, without burning yourself out.

Multi tasking tips

Your life doesn’t entirely consist of work; your personal life matters too. The trouble is that if you’re too busy at work, it’s probably taking its toll on your personal space. The following tips therefore include suggestions for organising your personal life as well as your work load.

Pair your tasks

Pair activities that require a lot of mental attention with those that require little or none. Many people make the mistake of attempting two activities at once when both require mental focus. Multi-tasking works best when you pair an activity that requires your attention with another that doesn’t. For example, you might read while peddling your exercise bike.

Make a plan

Write down the things that you need to do. This will help you to identify possible pairings. Also look for things that can be delegated, and things that will be more effective if done in a sequence.

Make your waiting time productive

Carry something with you that needs doing, such as a report that needs to be read, or some study that needs to be done. When you are forced to wait for an appointment or a plane, pull out something you can do to make your wait productive. Never allow someone else to waste your time.

However, if you are a Type A, you are probably doing this already and may need to remember that you also need time off for good behaviour!

TV time is a great for multi-tasking

Most of us try to limit television viewing to special programmes only, but when you really don’t want to turn the TV off, try to add another activity. Some people exercise while watching TV – maybe you can put your treadmill or stationary bike where you can view the TV, or make an agreement with yourself that you will do push ups or crunches on every advert. You might also use some TV time to read magazines, pay bills, send notes and cards and so on.

Group similar activities

It is often speedier to do similar things at the same time. For example, rather than meeting with friends and business associates separately, can you schedule a group outing so everyone can catch up on the gossip and network at the same time? Give your wallet and waistline a break. Unless you need to discuss something confidential or pertinent to only one person, try a group gathering.

Take advantage of technology

A portable phone or headset will allow you to continue with simple tasks chatting on the phone. (A cordless headset will give you two hands free!)

Involve the people you cherish

One of the most difficult things about our busy schedules is having the time to do community service, or other activities, and still spend time with the people we love. Use multi-tasking by involving those you love in your activities. Find a community service activity where you can take part with your children, friends or partner. If you have younger children, consider becoming a scout leader or sports coach. This way, you can donate your time and be with your children. Partners can work out together at the gym. Get creative. See how you can do the things you want and still spend time with the ones you love and enjoy.

Many hands make light work

In the old tradition of barn raising, can you bring many people together to jointly achieve a task? In the process, you get to socialise and have a great party afterwards. Consider a barbeque/car wash, for instance. Have your friends meet at noon and bring a dish for a barbeque. Have a ball washing everyone’s car. In the late afternoon, wrap up with a meal.

You can’t multi-task everything

Warning

Some things deserve your undivided attention.

You wouldn’t want your surgeon watching TV while removing your appendix! Some things are so important that they require your full attention. Don’t attempt to multi-task while praying, meditating or spending prime time with people you care about. Remember, too, that some problems or issues at work or home will be handled most effectively if you give them your complete focus.