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How to Be a Great Multitasker

With To-Do lists predicting more time than our clocks allow, oftentimes cramming multiple items into each time slot seems like the only way to get everything done in time. Despite advice to the contrary, multitasking can be helpful if we are strategic about it.

Here are three tips we at InMotion use to get the most done in a meaningful way :

1. Choose where to invest your time and focus. Time and concentration both need to be invested wisely. It is important to prioritize what needs all of your attention and give it just that because this will save time in the long run. For instance, it is understandably tempting to tune out during a long conference call and respond to some emails. Immediately after, you will probably feel accomplished, having both completed your call and emails. In a few days, however, you will waste a lot of time scrambling for information that was given during the call. Similarly, if you are a student, you may feel tempted to use your laptop to complete assignments rather than take notes during the lecture. But you’ll be grateful before the big test if you were fully present in class, so as to prevent scrambling for notes. Bottom line : channel 100% of your focus when it matters to save time and effort in the long-term.

2. Combine passive and active. A good multi-tasker combines one activity that can be put on “autopilot” and another that takes more conscious effort. A great example would be to tidy up your desk during that conference call or go on a walking meeting (in which the group takes a walk outside and discusses). Perhaps color-code your To-do list for passive and active activities (for example, write out passive activities in blue, active in green and 100% concentration in black) to see what can be combined. It is important to know your personal limit in concentration and prevent trying to multitask when one item really needs your full attention. For instance, resist the urge to talk on the phone and drive because, no matter what Bluetooth companies say, driving requires full attention.

3. Eliminate distractions. While this may seem counter intuitive to juggling, put away everything that is not related to the tasks at hand. Silence your phone if you are writing a proposal, and turn off computer notifications, too. Often, especially while completing a mundane task, we love any excuse to leave it, even if only for a few seconds to glance at a text. These little distractions can create a big block in our working rhythm, as it takes much more effort to get back into a task than it did to get out of it. If you find that you suffer from a short attention span, then alternate your activities. Set goal points for switching gears in each of the items on your To-Do list (ideally two-three). For instance, when you’ve completed a few items on the list, you can then call two of the people on your list.

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