Sometimes multitasking is about the worst thing you can do: For example answering e-mail in a meeting where you’re making strategic decisions. You’re guaranteed to do a mediocre job on both activities plus feel extra drained at the end of the day.
But, it’s not true that multitasking is always a bad choice.
In fact in my work as a time management coach and in my own life experience, I’ve seen that there are at least five areas where if you multitask, you’re likely to be more effective. Employ these strategies today to get activities done that you struggle to squeeze into your schedule.
Simple Organizational Tasks
I love when my office is neat. But I find the actual process of organization pretty boring. Opening mail, filing papers, sorting through piles, or dusting just don’t engage my brain enough to make them feel like a worthwhile use of time on their own.
That’s why for simple organizational tasks, multitasking actually works. When I do these activities, I’ll talk with a friend or listen to a podcast. I’m so mentally stimulated by listening or talking that I get through the organizational tasks effortlessly.
Almost everyone agrees that reading is a good idea, but a lot of people never make time for it. Instead of beating yourself up, put in reading time when you wouldn’t be able to do many useful activities anyway. For example, read a book while you’re eating lunch or listen to an audiobook on your commute home from work.
You’ll save yourself the frustration of being totally inefficient at eating and totally inefficient at typing by attempting to work over lunch. And you may even arrive home from work energized because you’re pumped up by what you just heard. I’m kind of a nerd so I get excited about learning new things!
To generate new and innovative ideas, your brain needs to be in the diffuse thinking state instead of the focused thinking state. So if you sit and try to just “be creative,” you’re most likely dooming yourself to failure. Instead, you want to do something that opens the door for creative thoughts to emerge.
For example, you might doodle, take a walk, cook, or even browse through a store. The goal is to do an activity that doesn’t require your full focus so that your mind can wander. This allows your inner brilliance to problem solve and come up with previously unrelated associations.
I may be a bit strange in this regard but repeatedly practicing presentations is another activity that my brain finds too boring to do solo. It’s like, “Elizabeth, didn’t we already say these words five times already, can’t we do something more interesting?”
So I find that I can get my brain to do the reps by talking through a speech while I’m doing something else. That something else could be tidying up, driving, or walking. With all of the modern headsets, most people will assume you’re just talking on your phone instead of acting completely crazy. And this is a way for you to get yourself to really drill a memorized speech.
We’ve talked about walking as a good strategy to use when you need to generate some creative thoughts or practice a presentation. But if you’re really struggling to fit in any sort of physical activity, there are other ways you can integrate walking into your day. (It’s worth it! Even 15 minutes a day can dramatically improve your mood, your health, and potentially lengthen your life. ) Two of the best strategies are walking meetings and walking phone calls.
You’ll need to make the decision whether or not to walk based on the formality of the meeting, the type of relationship you have with the other person, and the environment in terms of weather and safe walking spaces. But typically you can dramatically increase your daily steps. At best, you can go on an outdoor stroll if the weather is nice and your meeting member is up for it. At least, you can pace your office while you’re on a phone call. No excuses for no exercise–these strategies take no additional time. Plus they can help you be in a better mood during and after the meeting.
Multitasking has a bad rap but it’s not always a detriment. So go ahead and multitask in these five areas! Time coach’s orders.