As part of our new series exploring the attributes needed to succeed in the workplace, and to celebrate International Women’s Day, we begin by looking at multitasking, a skill often associated with women.
We are all expected to juggle many different things, not just in the workplace but at home. Achieving a good work-life balance demands organisation, flexibility and yes, lots of multitasking. Whether it’s planning and prioritising projects and tasks, arranging meetings or organising events, managing people or meeting clients, our dairies are packed full to the brim. And the pressures are only exacerbated during difficult economic times, when responsibilities continue to pile up.
In a Huffington Post article, Victor Imbimbo, President and CEO of Caring Today refers to multitasking as an ‘oxymoron’. Multitasking comes at a price and that is constant frustration despite ticking things off the list. Why? Because as Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) explains, the constant flitting from task to task only serves to distract us and we lose that precious focus.
So, what can we do to manage our time more efficiently? Productivity experts will often point to energy and attention levels, the idea being that you should focus on your priorities when you’re most alert. That’s the time to tackle that task that you might otherwise be tempted to put off. Another tip is to not keep anything in your head but write things down, so consider carrying a notebook to jot down ideas along the way.
Graham Allcott, author of ‘How to be a Productivity Ninja: Worry Less, Achieve More and Love What You Do’ is a big advocate of what he terms ‘sequential’ monotasking, which means bringing each task to its natural conclusion point. To achieve this, he argues, you need to get comfortable with imperfection, so for example ask your line manager for permission to be less responsive to emails. You might also want to occasionally leave the office and find a space that allows you to concentrate.
Lets’ be clear. Multitasking is no bad thing. Such is the nature of the fast-moving world we live in, that we’re often pulled from pillar from post. It’s a survival mechanism. We can’t just close ourselves away in an ivory tower. The trick is to find a balance, deal with as many things as possible without forgetting to set time aside for the tasks that add the most value (the so-called ‘80:20’ rule or Pareto Principle).
#BeBoldForChange is the campaign theme for International Women’s Day 2017. Multitasking, or rather monotasking, might be a good place to start.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback, so please leave your comments.