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Published on January 2, 2019

9 Tips on Multitasking Management That Will Improve Your Productivity

9 Tips on Multitasking Management That Will Improve Your Productivity

When you’re hungry to grow, expand and drink deeply of life, you want to be as productive as possible. And with so many choices of how to drink deeply of life, we can add a lot to our plate. Enter multitasking management that will improve your productivity.

It starts, innocently enough, with inspired action and a will to accomplish, build and fulfill what’s in our heart or mind to create. But if we’re not careful, it quickly turns into being buried in work and delayed outcomes rather than the productivity we thought we were creating.

Let’s be clear on what we mean by multitasking before we get into the tips on how to improve your productivity. Managing multiple tasks simultaneously actually impairs productivity. And your quest to be more productive will come down to how well you can focus on the task at hand. To divert your attention away from the task at hand will only make it take longer.

In The One Thing by billionaire Gary Keller, he says

“Extraordinary success is sequential, not simultaneous.”

You need to focus on the vital few tasks, not the trivial many, that will get you to your goal.

So let’s agree that by “multitasking”, we mean the many tasks you have to do, not doing them simultaneously. This article is about how we manage the many tasks we have to do in such a way that we improve our productivity in both quantity and quality so we can live the life we’ve envisioned living.

1. Adjust Your Expectations

I’ve found that the more projects I take on, the more tasks I have to manage. That sounds obvious but it’s a critical distinction. Most people take on way too much and have impossible expectations that they can get it all done.

With every project comes more details than we can predict. If you’re not careful, you’ll take on too many projects that bury you in tasks you have no hope of managing.

I did this a ton in my twenties. It was exciting to dream of all that I wanted. I would dabble in a handful of ideas and then move on to the next when I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted. From the outside, it might have looked like I was “multitasking”, but I wasn’t getting where I wanted to go.

The downside of dabbling with all these ideas was that I started to see myself as someone who couldn’t produce a result. It erodes your confidence when you take on a ton of projects and then can’t move any of them to the place you had in your mind to take them.

So this first tip is a big one because it will impact your ability to manage whatever other tasks you choose to put on your plate. Choose wisely.

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2. Choose Wisely

You can’t do it all. You know that. But what’s the threshold of what you can do? It’s a lot less than you think, which means you have to choose wisely the tasks you take on to produce the most you can in the time you give it.

When launching my marketing agency I had to do most of the tasks. And as our clients grew so did the tasks I had to manage. I waited longer than I should have to find help and this cost me a loss in growth during the time I held on to all the tasks. It also caused stress that impacted my ability to focus and show up as the best version of myself. I had to find the vital few tasks that would grow my company. I had to choose wisely what I would spend my time on.

Once you have chosen the vital few tasks you will manage, you will either have to make peace with letting the other tasks go or outsource them to someone else.

3. Outsource

Focused on the vital few, my company began to grow again and I found myself buried in more tasks than I could handle. This is the nature of success.

As your productivity grows, so does your to-do list. It was clear I couldn’t multitask my way out of this one and continue to grow. So I began to build my team of contractors I could outsource my growing list of details to.

This is an important tip because many of us never ask for help. If we work for someone else, it’s easy to think we’re a better team player if we can show that we can do it all.

If you own your own business, it’s easy to think you can’t afford the help you need. And so, we get buried in the details and read articles about multitasking, hoping they’ll provide some answers or relief about how we can get more done in our already overloaded schedule.

Delegating and outsourcing to good contractors has become so much easier as more and more talented people step into the gig economy. At my company, we use Upwork.com on a daily basis. We have also used Fiverr.com and the many resources available in the Envato marketplace. In this day and age, you don’t have to do it all yourself. There is an entire ecosystem you can outsource to and it costs a lot less than you think.

Moreover, it’s costing you much more in lost productivity to shoulder it all and not outsource. By outsourcing, you can refocus on managing the list of the vital tasks that move the needle toward your desired outcome.

4. List Management

I always carried my action items in my head, until it was so full that I had to write it onto pages in my journal or nearby sticky notes. But those ideas and to-do’s got lost over time forcing me into a pattern of reacting to whatever showed up in my day. Reacting is not a great place to produce from.

I needed a better way to manage my growing list of tasks so they were all in one place. My agency had been using Trello to manage our client projects and so I decided to try it for housing my list of to-dos.

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    Trello works well because it’s flexible. You can create what they call “Boards”. We have a Trello board for our tier 1 clients and a separate board for our tier 2 clients. We have a Trello board for all our Leads and a Trello board for Operations. I also created a board for my own list of to-dos.

    Inside a board, you create “Lists”. Some of my team create lists for tasks around priority level like “High Priority”, “Mid Priority”, and “Low Priority”.

    I found what worked best for me was to create lists based on time. My lists are labeled “Today”, “This Week”, “This Month”, “This Quarter”, “This Year”, and “The Future”. I move products and tasks into and out of these different lists based on when I need to focus on them.

    I also created a list in my board that says “Brain Dump” where I can quickly open my Trello app, open that board and just dump ideas or to-do’s quickly and then drag them to the appropriate list later.

    Inside lists, you can create “Cards”. Cards allow you to create checklists, due dates, descriptions, and comments. You can tag team members and add color-coded labels. While I don’t use all these features in cards, I find that it allows me to organize my thoughts about a particular task and continue adding as more ideas or items come up for that task.

    Having one place to collect, organize and manage all your ideas and to-do’s is critical if you want to manage multiple tasks.

    As you manage your list of to-do’s you’ll see similar activities you can lump together and knock out in a “batch”.

    5. Batching

    In the beginning months of my startup, I would do everything all the time. I was just trying to figure out all the moving pieces and respond to what was urgent. But as the work piled on, I found certain kinds of work required certain kinds of focus and energy. Responding to emails, was different than creating meaningful social posts and updating Trello cards was different than taking time for vision and planning.

    Enter batching. Batching lumped similar tasks into a condensed time frame which allowed me to get more done on those particular types of tasks by using the energy those tasks required.

    My company does done-for-you content marketing where we interview our clients for their own podcasts. Each interview we do has an entire checklist of tasks to complete.

    In the beginning, I would record an interview with a client for their podcast. As soon as the interview was over, I would get up from my computer and walk away just to get different energy, leaving the episode title, the description we used for their YouTube channel, and updating our Trello list for later.

    It took so much longer to come back to those tasks, having to remember what we talked about and get back into the frame of mind to complete that episode. So, I started batching all those tasks at the end of the interview. Not only did the work get done faster, I felt lighter not carrying around all the undone tasks in my head.

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    Batching is a powerful practice. You can start by simply batching one kind of task with another. Take it slow. See how it feels. Play with it. The whole goal is to increase output and minimize interruptions

    6. Interruption Management

    Interruptions are one of the biggest killers of productivity. Multitasking is no match for constant interruption and communications can be one of the primary culprits of this lost productivity. This applies whether you work in an office with others, at home by yourself or have a virtual team.

    As our virtual team grew, we had to find ways to communicate daily around projects, fulfillment, and ideas. Talk about being pulled away from productivity. I would spend an hour to two hours a day just responding to communications in email, text, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Trello, Voxer and Slack.

    We added tools like Slack and Trello to streamline communication, but I found myself getting pulled into chat threads every hour with notifications lighting up my phone. Realizing I couldn’t focus on the vital few if I was constantly pulled into the weeds of my business, I had to create some boundaries for myself and with my team around how and when I would use these communication tools.

    Set boundaries with the people in your life by letting them know when you’re available and when you’ll respond to their communications. Turn off the push notifications on your phone or set your phone in airplane mode during productive times. You don’t need to be unreachable all day. You just need to protect your focus during tasks that require it.

    7. Prepare

    One of the hacks that allowed me to batch all the work at the end of a client interview was, having all the tools and tabs open on my computer that I needed to quickly complete the tasks. That sounds obvious in hindsight, but sometimes when we’re buried in all the tasks we’re trying to manage, we move from task to task in a frantic pace and don’t allow time to prepare the tools, our space, or our minds for the work we’re about to move into.

    What took an extra couple of minutes in preparation easily saved me twenty minutes in clean up the way I used to do it.

    If you’re going to manage multiple tasks, then preparing for those tasks ahead of time will streamline efficiency and as a result increase productivity.

    8. Nutrition

    In a previous article I wrote on Lifehack, I talked about the importance of nutrition on memory enhancement. Similarly, nutrition can impact performance and productivity.

    As my startup grew and my time got squeezed, I found myself drinking more coffee, eating unhealthy snacks and less nutritious food. I also found myself starting happy-hour earlier just to hide from all the details in my head.

    Over time, my body was tied in knots. My sleep schedule was off and my focus was hit and miss. Simply dropping the coffee, happy-hour and doing more proactive meal prep put me back in my body and my mind which helped me be more present to the tasks I had to manage every day.

    Nutrition is not a common tip for multitasking management, but it’s imperative if you want to be productive.

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    These are some healthy eating habits to help you stay productive: 15 Eating Habits to Make You Stay Productive at Work

    9. Take a Break

    When you’re invested in your work, it’s easy to take it with you everywhere.

    I find myself constantly working. My business is important to me because I feel we have important work to do in the world. But, I’ve found that if I don’t take a break, I begin to feel worn down by the sheer load of it all.

    I notice, too, that when I do take a break from work, my mind relaxes and a space opens up for new inspiration and energy, giving me renewed focus for the vital few tasks I need to manage when I go back to work.

    This is why it’s important to schedule downtime. Again, this is not common multitasking advice, but for those of us that want to hack life, we understand and appreciate a holistic approach to productivity.

    The Bottom Line

    The goal is a rich and productive life, not spinning a bunch of plates only to look up years from now and wonder why you’re not further in life than you are.

    From the book The One Thing,

    “Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business.”

    Multitasking, as most people think about it, is really just busyness. But managing the vital few tasks sequentially, not simultaneously, will lead you to the kind of productivity that will take you where you wish to go.

    More Resources to Boost Productivity

    Featured photo credit: Green Chameleon via unsplash.com

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    Chris Angell

    The founder of Groundswell Digital Marketing, helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses through done-for-you content marketing.

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    Published on January 16, 2019

    How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

    How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

    We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

    You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

    You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

    That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

    Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

    1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

    Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

    We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

    To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

    At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

    The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

    2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

    Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

    The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

    In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

    It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

    It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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    So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

    • Are you a great strategist?
    • Are you an effective planner?
    • Is Project Management your strength?
    • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
    • Are you the ideas person?
    • Is Implementation your strength?

    Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

    3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

    One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

    Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

    Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

    Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

    4. Take Time for Planning

    “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

    One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

    You can take the time to think about:

    • What’s the purpose of the project?
    • How Important is it?
    • When does it need to be delivered by?
    • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
    • What are the KPIs?
    • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
    • Who is working on this project?
    • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
    • What tolerances can I add in?
    • What are the review stages?
    • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

    Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

    5. Focus on Priorities

    Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

    Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

    One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

    1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
    2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
    3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
    4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

    James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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      The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

      If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

      If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

      6. Take Time Out

      To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

      If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

      Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

      In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

      Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

      7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

      Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

      I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

      Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

      If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

      8. Stop Multitasking

      Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

      So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

      When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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      If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

      9. Work in Blocks of Time

      To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

      I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

      Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

      Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

      Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

      Then take another 10-minute break.

      Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

      By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

      10. Get Rid of Distractions

      Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

      “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

      Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

      If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

      11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

      You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

      Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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      Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

      12. Take a Time Audit

      Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

      Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

      You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

      Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

      Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

      At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

      If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

      13. Protect Your Confidence

      It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

      When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

      Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

      When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

      Final Words

      A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

      The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

      If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

      Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

      Reference

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