In today’s fast-paced business environment, multitasking is an essential skill required for success. However, some people question whether multitasking is actually good for productivity. When you split your focus between multiple tasks, are you able to give each task the attention it deserves? Let’s examine just what multitasking is and whether it can truly be good for productivity.
Concentration Vs. Multitasking
It is very easy to confuse multitasking with concentration because multitasking requires intense focus. However, concentration means doing one thing at a time or thinking on one thought, and this is the opposite of multitasking, where you take on several things at the same time.
Multitasking is a term that actually originates with computer science. It was a word used to describe a computer performing multiple tasks at the same time. “Multitasking” was quickly adopted by humans to describe our ability to juggle two or more activities at once.
We multitask in various aspects of our lives without even realizing it. We send texts and emails or read stories on our phones while watching tv. We listen to music while we work. And at work, we juggle multiple tasks at once.
However, while computers can literally perform multiple tasks simultaneously, humans don’t actually do the same. When we are engaged in one or more activities at the same time, we split our attention between the two. We tune out of our tv program while sending a text, for example. Or we stop focusing on the music playing in the background while we focus on work. However, the shift in attention happens so quickly that we don’t even really notice it.
Why Do Employers Value Multitasking?
As you read through job postings, you’ll probably find that many employers are looking for people who can multitask effectively. But if multitasking is really just splitting attention, why would they value that trait so much?
The fact is, employers need people who work productively, and people who can tackle multiple tasks at once are not only productive, but they are also efficient. Multitasking is valued by employers because it helps them control costs and makes you a valuable employee.
- Good multitaskers can be cross-trained: Multitasking employees can be easily trained in several areas. If you become familiar with various segments of the business, you can flow between tasks and help out when demand increases. People who are highly specialized and only have one very specific skill set cannot do that, so learning other jobs and functions makes you more useful, and thus, more valuable.
- Multitasking increases the productivity of the team and the company: People who can multitask deliver more output with fewer resources. If your boss can use you and a few of your teammates for a particular process, rather than hiring new people for that process, you help the company save money while boosting output. In the time it takes your boss to hire two new people, train them and wait for them to ramp up, you and your coworkers would already be up and running on the new process.
- Multitaskers work better independently. If you have multitasking abilities, you do not have to depend on others for every small thing, and likely can tackle tasks on your own.
- Multitaskers don’t have time to slack off. Employers don’t want to hire people who have so much free time on their hands that they spend their work hours on social media or shopping online. Multitaskers are so focused on all they need to do that they simply don’t have time to focus on personal activities.
What Skills Do I Need to Multitask?
Now that you know what multitasking really is and why employers value it, you understand why it’s so important for you to convey that you are an excellent multitasker. However, it’s not enough to just say that you can multitask on your resume. You want to reinforce that ability by showcasing the skills that are needed to multitask effectively. Here are just a few of those skills:
- Ambition: People who are excellent multitaskers have the ambition to be as productive as possible and to accomplish all they can in a day, week, month or year. Ambitious people don’t go through the motions or do just enough to stay under the radar. They actively tackle multiple tasks and generate real results.
- Discipline: The problem with multitasking is that if you are not effective, your attention can slip from one task as you get distracted by another. That’s where discipline comes in. Strong multitaskers are able to leverage their disciplined mentality to stay focused enough not to get distracted.
- Prioritization: Effective multitaskers don’t get mired down by busywork. Instead, they are able to look at a list of things they must do and prioritize the most important tasks to tackle right away. They don’t focus on how much they need to get done; they focus on what must be done first. And by doing that, they actually get more accomplished because they are focused in on results and knocking out the most important things first.
- Problem-solving: People who can multitask well do not get run off course by a problem, setback or even a mistake. When they hit a roadblock, instead of getting stuck, they devise a plan of attack to overcome that roadblock and keep their work on track.
- Enthusiasm: When there is much to be done, the least-effective employees can become paralyzed while the most effective employees dive right in. Multitaskers who approach their workload with a positive attitude are not only productive, but they also help to improve the morale of their coworkers and that enthusiasm can spread, making everyone a stronger multitasker.
How to Improve Your Multitasking Skills
Leveraging multitasking for productivity takes practice and commitment. If you want to improve your multitasking skills, use these tips.
Make a List
Making a to-do list is hardly revolutionary, but it’s an easy habit to fall out of until you become overwhelmed and have no choice. You can improve your multitasking skills by starting your day with a list of everything you must get done so you can keep track of where things stand.
Eat Your Frogs
Once you have your to-do list for the day, prioritize the items by most important tasks and tasks you are dreading. Mark Twain once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Get into the habit of “eating your frogs” first thing– that is, doing the thing you dread the most. This can help you gain momentum for the rest of the day and helps you spend the majority of your time on tasks you enjoy, rather than having dreaded tasks looming over your head.
Be Honest with Yourself and What You Can Accomplish
Multitaskers don’t do everything. They do as much as they can do well. To improve your multitasking skills, it’s important to be aware of your limits. You only have so much time in a day to tackle your work, and if you push yourself to do too much, you will burn out. It’s very important to be honest with yourself about how much you can tackle. This will come with time and practice, but it will be easier if you make and keep lists and prioritize your tasks each day.
Combine Related Tasks
Another great habit of skilled multitaskers is task-batching, or grouping together similar tasks in time blocks, so you can finish one type of task before moving on to something else. When blocking your time and optimizing your schedule, consider your natural energy levels. Schedule tasks that require the most brainpower during your peak performance hours.
Multitasking only leads to productivity if you don’t let distractions get the best of you. Phones, email, social media, chat groups and other distractions can quickly derail your progress. Turn off phone and email notifications and only check email and phone messages at certain times of the day.
Add in Breaks
You might think that it makes you a better employee to refrain from breaks but taking breaks can actually make you more productive and can improve your ability to multitask. Taking breaks can benefit you in multiple ways:
- Improved focus: No one can concentrate effectively for eight-plus straight hours. Failing to take breaks causes fatigue, which impacts concentration. Stepping away gives your brain and body a break so you can return with renewed focus.
- Improved mood: If you work too long without a break you are much more likely to feel stressed, angry, or depressed during the day. Giving yourself permission to walk away for a few minutes can reduce that stress and boost your mood.
- Breaks can help you with problem-solving: Sometimes, the best way to solve a problem is to walk away from it. If you’re stumped on something or frustrated about a task, step away from it. By not thinking about it, you may end up finding the solution faster.
- Refuel your body: Some people think working through lunch makes them a more productive person, but eating a balanced lunch helps nourish both your body and mind. A good lunch helps keep your blood sugar at healthy levels, improves brain function and gives you the energy to tackle the remainder of the day.
Improve Your Career Today
Even if you are an excellent multitasker, you can’t do your best work if you don’t enjoy your job or if you don’t like where you work. If you are looking for a job you love and an employer that values your contributions, partner with RPC company today.
We are an expert staffing firm that serves the Dallas, Fort Worth, TX and Springfield, MO areas and we can connect you with employers that have available positions that are the best match for you. Search our available jobs now and apply online today. We look forward to helping you achieve your goals.