Multitasking

Multitasking is identified as one of Matter’s top skills linked to performance and career success. Matter helps professionals tease out blindspots and areas for growth in skills like multitasking through regular peer-to-peer feedback.

What Is Multitasking

Definition of Multitasking: Handles more than one task at the same time with ease.

Multitasking is a difficult thing to accomplish well, but when done right it can yield big returns. A Harvard Business Review study measured the differences between monochronic teams (low multitasking) versus polychronic teams (high multitasking) and concluded that the financial performance of companies with highly polychronic teams was significantly better than that of companies with average or monochronic teams. The polychronic teams were more superior at taking in and sharing more insightful information than their average and monochronic counterparts.

Great Multitaskers You May Know

Joss Whedon: Screenwriter and director of shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Avengers, Whedon has to juggle many projects at the same time and has often been credited with being a great multitasker. While no one can doubt his project management chops, he has a different term for it: “The secret to multitasking is that it isn’t actually multitasking. It’s just extreme focus and organization.” At 55 years old, Whedon has directed six TV shows, eleven movies, and numerous comics and digital content.

Jack Dorsey: Despite being in two entirely different industries, the social network Twitter and mobile payment company Square share one thing in common: their CEO. Dorsey co-founded Twitter and Square to democratize messaging and payment for the masse, respectively. Heading both Twitter and Square is no easy feat. Dorsey emphasizes that running two companies is about performance and focus. Some of his strategies include using Apple’s native Notes app to ideate, building repetition in his schedule, and planning each day through themes and clear agendas.

Audrey Gelman: Throughout her career, Gelman has had to wear multiple hats and stay effective while doing it. She made a name for herself in practical politics as a press aide to Hillary Clinton and a politico in the revival of Downtown for Democracy. After the 2016 presidential election, Gelman founded The Wing, a women-focused coworking space. “I try to group activities together, so that [the] days don’t become super-schizophrenic,” Gelman described her multitasking ritual with Inc. Magazine.

Why Multitasking Is Important

  • Prioritization: Given their exposure to different projects and tasks, multitaskers are great at prioritizing. They are able to effortlessly prioritize work based on its level of effort and impact.
  • Muscle Memory: Just as a pianist becomes better by practicing to the point where their muscles can act without thinking, effective multitaskers are also great at internalizing their daily work, thus getting things done more efficiently.
  • Productivity: Great multitaskers are productive because they understand the importance of delegation and focus. They know exactly who, when, and how to bring the right people to tackle a complicated project.

What Multitasking Isn’t About

  • Superpowers: Multitasking is not the ability to consolidate three positions into one. It’s not a badge of honor that should be worn with pride. Multitasking is about productivity and effective delegation.
  • Busy Work: Multitasking is about doing more impactful work, not focusing on trivial tasks just to feel like you’re doing something. A major part of multitasking is understanding what tasks are the highest priority and not getting bogged down with lower-priority busy work.
  • Spreading Yourself Too Thin: Contrary to popular belief, effective multitaskers are very focused on what they do. They’re just good at switching from one task to the next, quickly and efficiently, and then switching back again if needed.

Abilities That Lead To The Mastery of Multitasking

Combining similar tasks: To master multitasking, it’s vital that the tasks you’re working on have some similar thread. If your mind is jumping from task to task, it’s important that the tasks have things in common. Keeping the tasks you’re working on similar will increase your effectiveness and efficiency.

Delegating tasks: Leaders you can’t do everything which is why delegating tasks is essential. Delegating doesn’t mean passing responsibility as a leader. The responsibility for the successful completion of delegated tasks remains with you. However, you’ve passed on the doing of the task in full recognition that it’s impossible for anyone to do it all on their own.

Eliminating distractions: Distractions can be detrimental even when you’re working on the simplest of tasks. Take steps to avoid office distractions to keep yourself from being distracted. Find ways to focus and get things done.

Mastering the ”One-Touch Rule”: The ”One-Touch Rule” says you are to touch a task only one time. Whether it’s responding to an email or helping a colleague with an ad-hoc request, you fully complete the task before moving on in your day. These unfinished to-do items pile up in your mind, which inhibits your ability to fully process whatever you’re working on at the moment.

Prioritizing tasks: Not every task is equally important. Prioritizing tasks by importance allows you to identify the most important tasks at any moment and give those tasks more of your attention, energy, and time. It sets you to spend more time working on what’s really important.

Using a to-do list: While it sounds straightforward, most people choose to ignore the power of to-do lists. Rapidly changing priorities at work make it impossible for our brains to remember what we need to do at any given point. Writing down what you need to do at the start of every day helps you stay alert and remember important tasks you have to complete.

Explore Roles That Benefit From Multitasking

Who can benefit from practicing multitasking? Matter is helping professionals at all levels get actionable feedback to improve their multitasking.

  • CEOs who are looking to become better leaders and cultivate company culture
  • Designers who want to grow their professional and soft skills
  • Freelancers who work without a traditional team and want feedback
  • Project Managers looking to improve their cross-functional collaboration skills
  • Software Engineers who aspire to become a tech lead or manager

Explore Complementary Skills to Multitasking

Multitasking shouldn’t be practiced in a vacuum. Improve your multitasking by exploring and developing these complementary skills.

  • Communication: Clearly conveys information to others (written or verbal)
  • Delegation: Assigns manageable tasks, responsibilities, and authority to others appropriately
  • Productivity: Accomplishes an above average amount of work without excessive stress
  • Project Management: Leads a team project from inception to completion
  • Resourcefulness: Overcomes challenging problems in an effective way

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