To multitask or do one task at a time?

by Yin on December 2, 2009

in Being Organised,Tis Thing Called Life

We are all expected to be able to multitask. Otherwise, how do one expect to complete so many things at once? Sometimes, we feel that there may not even be enough hours in a day.

But are we more productive if we were to multitask or do one task/job at a time?

In this post, I want to share on why I think focusing on one job at a time is better than multitasking.

In the past, I multitask a great deal, mainly from the training that I’ve gotten from my previous job:

  • talk on the phone and type on the PC at the same time
  • eating and reading- meal time is a good time to catch up on the news
  • when loading something on the net and when the PC connection is slow, I will attempt to complete other task

Also, if I am travelling on public transport or waiting for someone, I will always have reading materials and notebook on hand.

Do you think if you are good at multitasking, you will be more efficient and be able to manage your time better?

Perhaps you can. But how about your stress levels and that constant feeling of being a scatterbrain or overlooking something?

Recently, I had to upload a series of documents into a website and systematically renaming these documents. To do it, I had to be precise because there were 56 documents under different titles- so I have to upload these documents in the server, have the url of the file path and provide these links so that the visitors can click on the links to view the file. The server take sometime to upload each document- and I am really tempted to do something else. But when I do, I find that I lost the flow, ie I forgot which file I have uploaded and which I did not because my attention was somewhere else. In the past, I would have made a mistake and had to redo everything again.

In the end, I decided to just focus on uploading and naming the files on the website instead of trying to do other things. The result? Everything gets done smoothly and correctly.

After years of multitasking, I’ve realised that outwardly, we may feel we are more efficient. But inwardly, we tend to be more stressed, overwhelmed and even become a little forgetful. Job descriptions that places a lot of importance of the ability to multitask are normally very stressful. I know because my previous job strictly require that.

Instead of being obsessed with multitasking, what you can do is to learn to organise your tasks better. In my current job, it appears that I have to multitask a lot- but I’ve learned to instead organise these task and do them one at time. I personally use Microsoft Outlook to organise my tasks- I could be concentrating on an assignment and suddenly the phone ring or someone comes over to request me to do something. Because that always happens, I will record down immediately in my Microsoft Outlook or jot it down. Then I will either continue with my assignment or stop and do the task required.

After doing this, I find that my stress level becomes almost non-existent.  This is because I always know that my to-do lists have been recorded and I get to see them at a glance. After doing the task, I indicate that I’ve completed the task.  I have tried but I have never been successful with book organisers. Finally, I’ve find success by electronically organising my tasks instead of writing them down- because I could move my tasks to another date, uncheck the reminder once the task has been completed and record the task’s progress. Now, there is a much lesser chance of me missing out on certain birthdays or paying my bills.

Trust me, if you do not have a systematic approach of organising your task and prefer to keep your to-do list ‘at the back of your mind’, life will be quite stressful for you.   

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