How to multitask correctly

The phrase “multitasking” came into our vernacular very quickly. It took over the work world and it wasn’t long before one of the main questions asked in job interviews became “how well do you multitask?” In a similar way, it also wasn’t long before the hype around multitasking diminished. People began to say “multitasking will ruin your brain”, “multitasking will train you to not be focused”, “multitasking ruins the quality of your work.”

Well, I like to say that anything can be bad for you if you use it in the wrong way. Most of the claims that multitasking is an inefficient method of working are correct. Constantly allowing your focus to be spread thin is counter-productive. Focus is like a muscle in that the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. To stretch it means to be unable to give your full attention to the task you are presently working on. This, in turn, results in low quality work. However, there IS a time and place for multitasking.

First, let’s talk about how NOT to multitask. As I’ve already said, switching your focus from one thing to the next so quickly isn’t the way to go. On a broader perspective, doing two or more mentally demanding things at once or in quick succession is not recommended. Your brain is pretty awesome but you don’t want to take advantage of it and then tire it out unnecessarily. Train your brain to focus on one thing at a time and to preform tasks with precision and accuracy. Allow yourself to produce the best work!

That being said, here are some instances where you can multitask:

  • Listen to an audio book or podcast while driving or working out
  • Answer emails or phone calls while standing in line
  • Organize your desk when you’re put on hold
  • Talk on the phone while walking

Do you see a pattern here? You should partner mental tasks with physical tasks. In fact, this will work in a couple of different ways. If you do this, the physical task you are doing may in fact help you focus better on your mental task and it will also get little things out of the way so you can give your energy to more important things! It’s amazing. Make sure the nature of the physical tasks you are doing are mindless, second-nature things that you don’t have to use any mental energy for; like folding laundry or washing dishes.

By doing this, you can eliminate so many things from your to do list! All those little things that you didn’t think you’d have time for, all of a sudden they’re done and you can relax and do other mindless things like binge watch your favorite Netflix shows.