Discover How to Do It All Without Doing It All At Once -
Multi vs. Mini-tasking
by Ginger Marks
Are you a multi-tasker or mini-tasker? In today’s instant gratification society and with the demands on our time from both our job and our family most of us have developed an ability to multi-task. But are you really getting multiple tasks completed at the same exact time or are you simply breaking them down into smaller bites? For those of you who are died in the wool multi-taskers, I applaud you. How you can remember every little piece when they are mixed up with other little pieces I will never understand. I thought I too was in your private club until I stepped back and took a long hard look at the way I was truly getting things done (or not done as the case may be).
When you attempt to tackle more than one thing at a time do you find yourself having to go back and refresh your memory about that fourth from the last thing you were working on? Do you struggle to stay organized or overlook the minute details? Perhaps, like me, you simply are not a multi-tasker but rather a mini-tasker. One quick way to tell is when you are in a group chat setting do you connect with multiple conversations that are going on at the same time or do you have difficulty transitioning from one subject to the next?
As I get older and wiser I realize that multi-tasking is not what it is cracked up to be. You may find it easier and more productive to stay on a steady course and complete one task at a time rather than trying to juggle multiple projects. Often, trying to do too many projects at the same time can lead to miscommunication with others involved with the completion of the task and worse yet your completed project(s) may even suffer from the lack of proper attention to detail. This doesn’t mean you can’t work on more than one project at the same time. What it means is you, like I, might to better to make a schedule and stick with it. Create a daily planner page or TODO list. At the top of the list write all the tasks you have to accomplish in that day and what part you need to do to make it a reality. Then map out what you are going to do at what time on the schedule. Not only will this give you a road map to success but, if tomorrow you forget what you did yesterday and where you need to begin today, you have it written down and can easily refresh your memory.
According to Russell Poldrack, associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, multitasking’s reputation as a timesaving tool is undeserved.
“In general, it’s almost always worse to try to do two things at once than it is to do each of those things separately,” he says. “This is because there is a bottleneck in the mind in terms of how people process things psychologically. There are certain things—such as choosing what action to take—that you can only do at one time,” says Poldrack.
That is why many of us preferred to finish a task that is nearing completion even if it means staying at it past the “bell”.
Imagine, if you will, the multi-tasker who accomplishes several tasks in the day by doing one for an hour and then switching to make a sales calls and then goes back to the previous task. How long do you think it will take to refocus and pick up the ball again? Even if it is just a minute or two, and for some it can be as much at 30 minutes or more, you have simply wasted that productive time. Most of us can actually tackle one or two chores at the same time but any more than that and we begin to loose focus. Even a computer doesn’t work in parallel unless it is a special parallel computer. It does one thing and then the next and then the next.
According to Philip S. Marks, Dual-degree, B.S. Physics/B.S. Engineering BS and computer programmer, “A human can do some things in parallel and some things they just simply can’t. What we are talking about are conscious activities like doing arithmetic not subconscious activities. As a human example you can ride a bike and talk to your friend riding beside you, however to add two columns of numbers together at the same time is impossible for most. Give it a try. You can’t divide A in to B and C into D in long division at the same time, and you can’t calculate the square root of two numbers at the same time. What this indicates is, for optimal productivity, stay on one task as long as possible and switch back and forth as little as possible.”
Another way to deal with your multi-tasking needs is to look to others for assistance. Let’s say that you are a small business owner and your productive time is spent doing shows and taking care of clients. The time you spend doing activities that are not beneficial to your bottom line are unproductive. Things like creating that website or writing a press release or a number of other business building tasks that you have little or no experience in should be hired out. When you try to do these important things yourself you not only waste your time creating an ineffective end result but you loose the productive time that you could have gained in focusing on your strong points.
To reiterate become a mini-tasker and you will be much more productive. Make your list, write it down, and be specific. Try this little trick; it works for me. Write at the top of your day’s planner page, “I am going to do X and I am going to accomplish Y,” for each and every task you wish to complete. Don’t allow yourself to overdo it. If you need to research to find a missing link do just enough to fill the need and then move on. Do refer to your notes to refresh your mind as to where you left off if you get interrupted or thrown off track. You’ll find this works wonders for getting your mornings off to a quick start. That and a cup of coffee (or tea) will ensure a productive day. We all need as much structure as possible. Develop routines and rituals and stick to them. Don't fool yourself into thinking you don't need them. You do! And lastly, recognize your strengths, and cater to them as much as you can. Ask for help or hire a professional to assist in the areas that you need help.
© Copyright 2006 Ginger Marks
Ginger Marks is the founder of DocUmeant, We Make YOU Look GOOD! and co-owner of Nibroc Marketing Solutions. For more information, visit http://www.documeant.net and http://www.nibrocmarketing.com Currently she authors a column on business development and personal growth at ArticlesOn. Mrs. Marks has recently released the second edition of her book Presentational Skills for the Next Generation available through Lulu. She shares her insights on marketing through her ezine, Rock Solid Marketing, available at her marketing website.
Ginger Marks may be contacted at http://www.nibrocmarketing.com