10 Ways to Stop Multitasking

Cubicle series: the Multitasker

Yesterday we discussed multitasking, or why it’s a bad idea. Of course, talking about it is one thing, actually stopping is a whole other story. Those of us who juggle family, home and kids may feel as if we have no choice. However, since I stopped multitasking for work, I find I’m much more productive. I also have time to spend with my family. Today, I’d like to share:

10 Ways to Stop Multitasking

  1. Set up a block of time to work without interruption: I like setting business hours. This tells the neighbors it’s not a good time for coffee cake. It tells the inlaws it’s not a good time to call, and it tells the immediate family not to interrupt unless there’s an emergency. Not only do I find others respect what I do more when I establish business hours, but I respect what I do more as well.
  2. Stay away distractions: Don’t sign on to Twitter. Don’t spend hours web surfing. Work away from the television and stay away from email. You’ll find with fewer distractions, your attention will remain focused on one task and one task only.
  3. If you’re in your groove, turn off the ringer on your phone: You don’t have to answer every call that comes in. Turn your ringer off if you must. Emergencies are fine, but most phone calls can be returned later in the day. Don’t work and talk on the phone at the same time because you’re only asking for mistakes. Besides, the person on the other end wants your full attention.
  4. Take care of your most unattractive task first: If you have a list of tasks waiting for you when you begin the day, start with the task you like the least, and finish with the one you enjoy the most. Use the attractive task as a reward for getting the boring stuff done. Getting the unattractive task finished first only means smooth coasting for the rest of the day. Sometimes mulitasking is a way to procrastinate. By eliminating the unloved task early on, we’re also eliminating procrastination.
  5. Make a list and cross off items accordingly: To do lists work wonders for the multitasker. Unitask using the list. Cross one item off at a time. As each item is crossed off, the day’s outlook is better. When focus is needed, return to the to do list and start with the top item – and don’t stop until you can cross it off.
  6. Make a schedule: Schedule time for all the timesucks. Schedule email time, time to return phone calls, lunch, exercise, time for social networking and all the other little things that eat into your projects. By Scheduling a certain time and a certain amount of time for each, you won’t have to do it at the same time as your writing projects.
  7. Don’t get up until a job is done: It’s that simple. Sit down, finish the task and then get up.
  8. Prioritize: Anything pressing should be done first, otherwise it will always be on your mind taking your attention away from your current projects. Your to do list should also be your priority list.
  9. Don’t try and take on more work than you can honestly handle: If it’s hard for you to juggle multiple tasks, don’t accept so much work. If you have so much you can’t focus on one thing at a time, or you can’t do the job because you need to take care of your family, maybe you have too much work. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
  10. Delegate: Share family tasks with spouses and kids.  Share administrative tasks with the people who work with or for you. Consider outsourcing (with your client’s permission) if you took on too much work. There’s no shame in delegating.


3 responses
  1. Lucy Smith Avatar

    Re: 2 – I know someone who has an out-of-office reply set up saying when he checks his emails. This seems to work well both ways – he doesn’t get distracted by emails coming in, and you don’t get distracted wondering if/when he will reply.

    I’m a very big fan of the list as well. Crossing something off feels so good, and seeing all these items crossed off feels even better!

  2. Phil Avatar

    Re: No. 7

    Though I basically agree, some projects are too long for this to be practical. Other times, I just go brain dead for a few minutes, so I take a walk around the block (actually a double block, so it’s about 1/2 mile) to clear my head. Another drawback from adhering to rule..too much coffee (and nature calling).

  3. Tania Mara Avatar
    Tania Mara

    Re: #10

    Unfortunately, this isn’t always that easy. It works wonderfully for some families, but not everyone is fortunate enough to have a spouse who’s willing to help.

    Of course, I’m talking just about delegating tasks to family members. Sharing admin tasks and outsourcing are both good things to do if you want to get rid from multitasking addiction.

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