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 I’m firmly in the single-tasking camp. Or at least I have been, until I came across how we can actually multi task in a way that will not impair our productivity. Today, I’ll talk about effective multi tasking vs task switching and why you should do the former and not the latter.

What do you think of multi tasking? Does it break down your productivity? Does it make you lose concentration, impair your focus and make you less capable of finishing something on time? I hear you. And you’re not alone.

Many of us live in an era of constant distraction, permanent notifications and a barrage of information that comes at us from every direction. It’s no wonder that people are more stressed, less focused and so easily burnt out by the end of the day, right?

If you’ve read my popular post on Time Blocking, you’d know by now that I am a productivity geek. It’s a badge I wear with pride. I’ve always been time conscious (which is not necessarily a good thing when it comes to personal relationships, but that’s a story for another day!) 

3 Ways that Multi Tasking can actually boost your #Productivity. Click to Tweet

Scheduling Tasks – Many of them

So, here’s the thing I’ve figured out when it comes to multi tasking. It’s not bad, if done in the correct manner. I’m going to draw on my personal experience but you can easily extrapolate it to your own situation.

As a work-from-home solopreneur, I have MANY tasks on my mind on any given day, right? So, for me, schedules are everything and I do mean, EVERYTHING!

Work from home solopreneur? Do these 7 things to optimise your time!

Without a schedule, a plan, a structure of sorts, I will easily go down the rabbit hole of useless activities and end up doing nothing worthwhile at the end of the day.

Here’s what I do.

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The night before or early in the morning of a given day, I sit down with my notepad and pen and jot down the tasks for the day ahead. I don’t order them initially. I just list them as they come to mind. These encompass the following.

Here’s the first list of tasks: (CATEGORY A)

  • Blog-related tasks
  • Social Media scheduling
  • Graphics creation (for myself and my clients)
  • E-mail responses
  • Reading a Book/ E-Book

Then come what I call tasks that I can balance: (CATEGORY B)

  • Client calls
  • Listening to Podcasts
  • Listening to Music

Finally come the personal tasks such as: (CATEGORY C)

  • Cooking
  • Laundry: Washing/drying/folding
  • Cleaning toilets and the bathrooms
  • Workout /Walking
  • Commuting to work (I don’t do this often but adding it here for the benefit of those who do)

I know what you’re wondering: HOW DO YOU POSSIBLY FIT IN ALL OF THAT IN 24 HOURS? We’ll talk about that next.

Balancing different tasks & Multi tasking

Now that I have my list ready, I then sit and pair off tasks that I can do simultaneously. This is where it gets interesting.

Go back and look at all the tasks I’ve listed under the first set of bullet points. Let’s call this Category A.The second set of tasks we shall label Category B. And the last one we shall label Category C.

If you notice, I can pair a task from category A to some task in category B and do them both at the SAME TIME. The same goes for tasks in B and C.

But I simply cannot do A and C tasks simultaneously. Get the drift?

Here’s what I do:

I usually listen to a podcast while I am on my walk. That’s two 30-minute activities that I can do at the same time.

Similarly, I can take a client call while I am waiting for the pasta/rice to cook. It doesn’t need me to be watching the pot, especially if I have a timer function enabled. In your case, you can take a client call on the 45-minute commute to work.

I can also listen to music to relax me while I get through the drudgery of hanging laundry out to dry or fold it to put away.

Why exactly does this work, you ask? That’s the difference between multi tasking and task switching.

When Multi Tasking becomes Task switching

I’m not a psychologist nor do I know the technical term for this, but here’s what I know.

When you set your brain to tackle two different types of tasks that don’t involve the same parts of the brain, you’re actually multi tasking effectively. For instance, you can listen to a podcast while folding laundry, because the first task requires mental agility while the latter requires automation.

But what do most of us do instead? We switch tasks and usually in very rapid succession. Result? We end up not doing anything effectively!

Think about it: How many times have you sat down to write a post on the blog or a report for your boss and then switched to a tab on your browser? Your logic is this: ‘I’ll just check and reply to that e-mail and then get straight back to work.’ Or ‘Just one quick peek at Facebook and I can get right back to this boring report!’ Right?

Here’s the problem with that. Both tasks that you are switching between are high mental-agility tasks. They require the same part of the brain to work effectively. 

The challenge here is the brain cannot handle that kind of overload. So you end up starting a job, switching attention, coming back to find that you’ve lost the train of thought and have to back track. Result? You’ve wasted precious time. 

Instead, if you want to focus on a mental agility task, put on your headphones and listen to instrumental music designed to help you focus. Plenty of options on YouTube to help you on this track.

So, what do you think? Do you think you can multi task effectively? Or are you task switching your way through the day? Let me know in the comments.

Multi Tasking gets a bad rap and understandably so. But there is a trick to multi tasking that will not only boost  your productivity but lower your stress levels! Here's how it works. 

#Productivity #MultiTasking #Shailajav #TaskSwitching #ProductivityHacks #Entrepreneurs #SoloPreneurs
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11 Comments

Modern Gypsy · October 8, 2018 at 12:11 pm

I’m with you on single tasking. I prefer to work on one thing at a time, although I do mix, let’s say, art and music; driving and podcasts; etc in much the same way as you explained. Jumping between tasks wastes more time than it supposedly saves!
Modern Gypsy recently posted On my art table: The spiral dancersMy Profile

Ashvini Naik · October 8, 2018 at 1:57 pm

I’ve always been a fan of you for this, Shailaja.

I feel immensely grateful to you for putting me at ease whenever I felt I was having a writer’s burnout. And nobody puts it better than you that for a blogger, though the stats matter, they shouldn’t when you feel they’re intimidating or overpowering your writing prowess.

Though I haven’t even celebrated my 1st blogversary yet,☺ I feel so much better at handling so many tasks related to my blogging today than I used to when I just started. There’s still a lot that I’ll be learning from you & I owe every bit of my writing confidence to you.

shanayatales · October 9, 2018 at 9:18 am

That is exactly how I multi-task almost everything that I can. I have to focus on the critical tasks (I use the forest app to help me with that) but there are things I always multi-task- like cooking, cleaning, household chores. I NEVER do them without listening to 1. a podcast or 2. an audiobook 3. or a YT video on my phone (I am mostly only listening, not watching). It’s also a source of constant amusement for my family. How I always have to multi-task the household chores. And how I will simply not do them if I don’t have anything to listen while doing them (which is never really a problem – I always have tons of content to listen to).

But task switching – that is something I need to get better at.
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Vinitha · October 9, 2018 at 10:49 am

Well, I don’t have anything to say about multitasking or single tasking as I haven’t been doing anything productive lately. Many moons ago, before I fell into this pit, I used to mix and match tasks as you mentioned to have a control on my time. This post is a reminder to me to get back on track. Thanks Shailaja. Love your simple and effective posts. 🙂
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Shalini · October 9, 2018 at 1:40 pm

Me too. I can multitask while cooking; probably read a book or listen to music. And yes, I keep shuffling from one tab to another while sitting down to write a post. I’m trying my best these days to open only the blog while writing.

Soumya · October 9, 2018 at 3:14 pm

Task switching, that’s what helped me accomplish so much last month.

As much as I’m a fan of multitasking, some days I think single tasking is better. I keep toggling over the two back and forth, but at the end of the day when I look back at what all I’ve done, I feel satisfied.
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Akshata · October 10, 2018 at 10:37 am

While I do try and multitask quite a lot especially at work I found that it doesn’t work very effectively. I try and stay away from my phone which is a major distraction and that works wonders. I find so many similarities between you and me, and that makes me chuckle. I am a very methodical person who plans and excuses my work systematically. I havent really made a List C but I see where you are coming from. Spending 10 hrs at work makes it difficult to balance a List C but what I take back from your post is not switching between tasks which require mental agility and hence the burnout.

Anamika Agnihotri · October 10, 2018 at 3:40 pm

I am for the single task at a time. Even when I was in India and managing/juggling a lot of stuff alone, I used to plan out and spread out activities throughout the day but always did one task at a time. Even a 5-minute work call meant sitting in the chair and talking with full concentration. Only the chores were teamed up with listening to music. I have tried listening to podcasts while washing dishes or cooking but it did not work out because either I missed important points from the podcast or put double the salt in the food. So, only music works for me.
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Ramya Abhinand · October 10, 2018 at 6:10 pm

Just dont ask the number of things I multi task. I even end up reading multiple books at a time( a skill that I have acquired recently) But I wish I could just single task, cause it sure reduces a great deal of stress.
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Obsessivemom · October 12, 2018 at 8:21 am

Okay so this is something I need to practice. I’m terrible at multitasking. Each time I do it I mess up and end up with burnt rice, overflowing milk, half done posts and half written comments. Categorising tasks seems like a good idea, only it’ll take me forever to arrive at the pairing, or perhaps it might just get easier with practice. I need to try it. Shall get back to you on this.
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Sanch @ Sanch Writes · November 9, 2018 at 4:17 pm

You are a superwoman! How do you do it all? Seriously! Multi-tasking or single-tasking, that’s still a lot. But they are good tips. I guess for me, there’s a lot I can’t do on my work days given I’m at work from 8 till 5 and a 30 minute commute on either side. Exercise is almost non-neogtiable. Cleaning barely happens. I used to be more organised and I still have a to-do list of sorts but I also love being spontaneous which makes it hard. You tips are duly noted though for when I get my shit together.
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