Tuesday, October 30, 2007 at 9:30pm by Site Administrator
There’s been a debate recently about whether multitasking is a good thing or not. Some “experts” say it’s not good that teens and pre-teens multitask. (I.e., those that have six Internet Messaging sessions going simultaneously, along with a cell phone call, all while doing their homework.) For adults, though, sometimes it’s the only way to get things done, especially for work.
Multitasking is not about doing multiple things at the same time, but rather doing them simultaneously. That is, you initiate more than one task and, with careful preparation beforehand, alternate between them at appropriate milestones.
Multitasking does not work for all types of tasks Performing multiple physical tasks, including chatting with six friends at once, is often counterproductive and mentally exhausting – even if you don’t realize it consciously.
Multitasking works best if you have tasks you can delegate or computer resources. The essence of multitasking is that you start a task, and while it’s being completed by a computer or another person, you start another task. You will check back on Task #1 when you have a break in Task #2 – or earlier if the first task has high priority.
Here are the steps I usually apply, usually mentally:
- Enumerate all tasks to be completed between now and a given date.
- Break down each task into manageable subtasks. This is crucial, as you will interleave subtasks. Without this, there is no efficient multitasking.
- Determine if any tasks are bottleneck points. That is, if other tasks are reliant on them. These are the tasks that need to be initiated early.
- Map out sub-task relationships if you like, so that you have a visual representation of subtask priority and relationships.
- Initiate any tasks that will be bottlenecks. Put priority on them, start them first.
- Pick the highest priority task and start its first subtask, if any. Delegate it if necessary/ possible, once initiated. Or start it running in software mode.
- Move to the next most important task and initiate its first subtask.
- Now, either go back task 1 or move on to task 3. What you do depends on task/ subtask priorities and whether you are delegating or doing the actual work yourself.
- Repeat until all tasks are complete. Keep in mind that this may take a single day, several days, or weeks. It really depends on the actualy work and your resources.
A caution: multitasking works best for non-physical tasks. Anything that’s dangerous or otherwise requires constant human monitoring should not be multitasked. Of course, computer-related tasks improve your chances of success.
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