How to Multitask: 10 Tips
How to Multitask: 10 Tips

How to Multitask: 10 Tips

What Is Multitasking?

Put simply, multitasking is trying to complete more than one task at the same time. We've all multitasked at some point in our work and personal lives, whether we've realized it or not.

When done well, multitasking can make you more versatile. It can help you cope with busy periods at home or work. It can lead to a calmer and less stressful work life and increase your sense of job satisfaction.

There is always the danger when multitasking that you lose focus on the tasks you are trying to complete, meaning you don't complete them correctly or to the best of your ability.

The ability to manage more than one project at a time is a skill that many employers look for in candidates. As important when multitasking is knowing when not to multitask but instead focusing on one task solely.

This article outlines some examples of multitasking and how you can use multitasking to your advantage in the workplace.

Examples of Multitasking

Multitasking in the workplace happens in many different workplace settings.

For example:

  • Answering the phone while responding to an urgent email that you have received
  • Updating an Excel document while writing a report
  • Greeting a guest who has arrived at reception while updating the booking system on your computer
  • Preparing paperwork, taking incoming calls and scheduling appointments for clients
  • Taking drinks and food orders while setting out relevant cutlery and appropriate glassware
  • Calculating the bill for food and drinks while serving a customer
  • Updating multiple websites for different clients at the same time
  • Drafting content for social media posts for different clients
  • Drafting a presentation while fielding queries from a new colleague

Multitasking can save time and make us more efficient in carrying out day-to-day tasks in the workplace. When done well, multitasking increases our efficiency, giving us a sense of accomplishment and boosting our self-esteem.

Downsides to Multitasking

There are also downsides when it comes to multitasking, when it is not done correctly.

Sometimes when we are multitasking, we don't give due care and attention to the tasks we are carrying out. This can, in turn, lead to mistakes. Some mistakes we realize at the time, some we don't.

Suppose we make mistakes when multitasking; what started as a way to save time and be efficient ends up taking us more time in the long run. We need to fix the mistakes before carrying on with our next task.

These multitasking side effects can be eliminated when multitasking is performed correctly.

Keep reading to find out how!

How to Multitask Effectively in the Workplace

Managing multiple tasks in your role saves time and increases productivity. It can save your employer time too, making you a vital member of the workforce.

Successfully getting through your to-do list and producing quality work through effective multitasking also helps you advance your career.

Multitasking doesn't come easy to everyone. It is a learned skill that takes time to practice and hone.

Being able to take a step back to realize which tasks can be done simultaneously and which need to have your sole focus requires and demonstrates several key skills and attributes.

There is more to successfully multitasking than you may initially think. Being an effective multitasker relies on planning, and effectively prioritizing and organizing your work.

The ability to break down larger pieces of work into smaller chunks and knowing what tasks can be worked on at the same time as others is another key part of being a successful multitasker. It’s a skill that requires you to be organized and methodical in your approach to work.

There are many things that you can do to help master your multitasking skills and increase your productivity and efficiency at work.

Read on to find out more:

Step 1. Make a List of Jobs

Writing down a list of all the jobs you need to complete helps you see everything you need to do more clearly.

Once you have your list of jobs, prioritize these in order of importance. This could be by the deadline. Or if you have broken down a more important job into smaller tasks, it could be whether a particular task needs to be completed before you can start the next one.

Try and rank your tasks in order of importance. At the top of your list should be the tasks that are urgent and important. You can then rank those that are important but not urgent and those that are urgent but not important – these tasks may be ones that you delegate.

Investing the time up front to plan out all you have to do lets you see which tasks you need to complete and when. Also, you can determine which tasks are complex and need your sole focus and which ones you can work on simultaneously through multitasking.

Step 2. Perform Similar Tasks Together

Once you have your prioritized list of tasks, you can then group them according to the type of task.

Often when we multitask successfully, it is because we are carrying out similar jobs. This allows us to shift our focus from one task to another without losing concentration.

Grouping similar tasks together means we can increase our efficiency without compromising the quality of the output.

One example could be editing photographs for different clients. Or creating marketing copy for different clients' social media platforms. Drafting a report by extracting data from an Excel sheet and writing a summary email is another example.

All of these groupings require you to focus on similar tasks or sources of information. Grouping tasks in this way means your concentration is focused on the same pieces of information, making your work more effective and insightful.

Step 3. Look For Opportunities to Group Tasks

Multitasking relies on us organizing our work and seeing similarities in the way work is carried out.

While at first you may look to group only similar tasks together, remember to take a step back and look at what each job involves. It could be that you are working on an Excel document and reporting on the information.

In which case, consider grouping these tasks together rather than completing two separate pieces of work. Other examples could include dealing with issues based on type rather than specific office or location.

Taking a step back and looking at your to-do list while considering the bigger picture helps you understand what additional opportunities there are for you to apply a multitasking approach to your work.

Step 4. Delegate or Ask For Help

While multitasking involves one person completing several tasks simultaneously, it also relies on being able to spot tasks that can be delegated.

Often these tasks fall into the urgent but not important category, such as booking travel tickets, obtaining a piece of information from a colleague or collecting a parcel from the mailroom for an event you are organizing.

Identifying which tasks you can delegate focuses your attention on the tasks you need to complete, resulting in a more streamlined and achievable to-do list.

Step 5. Revisit Your To-Do List

Successful multitasking isn't static.

It relies on you revisiting and continually revising your to-do list to see what follow-on tasks may have arisen from any previous work you have completed.

Being agile in your approach and remembering to revise your to-do list gets you into the habit of determining which tasks you can work on simultaneously.

It also allows you to see the more complex tasks as they get allocated to you, meaning you can complete all your work within given deadlines.

Revisiting your to-do list daily also helps improve your planning and prioritizing skills. As with any skill, multitasking needs to be continually worked at. Daily practice of the skills that go into multitasking helps hone your efficiency.

Step 6. Review and Measure Your Results

Understanding the effectiveness of your multitasking efforts helps you refine your multitasking skills.

To do this you need to understand what works and what doesn't. One way to measure this is to time how long it takes to get a group of tasks done.

Another option could be seeking feedback on a written piece of work you have submitted that you worked on simultaneously as something else.

One point to remember with multitasking is that, like any other skill, multitasking takes time to master.

Get into the habit of multitasking and continually practice this skill. Taking a step back and reminding yourself of the bigger picture also helps you see the overall goals you are trying to achieve with each task.

Continually evaluating the way you approach multitasking helps hone your skills, leading to an increase in your workplace productivity.

Step 7. Remove Distractions

Being able to multitask successfully also requires complete focus. When writing out your to-do list, make sure you do so when you are free from distraction.

Switch off your phone, close the door of your office or room, or if you are in an open-plan office, find yourself a quiet room where you can fully concentrate.

When carrying out your tasks, make sure you are 100% focused.

If the phone rings, don't answer it. Put a ‘do not disturb’ note on any instant messaging systems you may have in the workplace, so you don't get tempted to reply to any messages if they come through.

Being disciplined and concentrating on the tasks you need to complete saves time and effort in the long run. If you don't need to rectify any mistakes that you made due to any distractions that occurred, you can then move on to the next group of tasks on your list with your confidence intact.

Step 8. Check Your Work

Multitasking can lead to errors, especially at the end of a group of tasks. Plan in time to check your work so that you can spot any errors and rectify these before moving on to the next assignment.

Adopting this approach will ensure the quality of your work remains high and give you peace of mind that you have completed all tasks correctly and to the best of your ability.

Step 9. Think About When You Work Most Effectively

Being aware of when in the day you are most effective and productive when working can help to practice multitasking skills.

Use this understanding to your advantage and work on multiple tasks when you are fresh and able to focus best. This will lead to high-quality work that is free from error while boosting your confidence in the workplace.

Step 10. Accept That You Can't Do Everything

Effective multitasking requires us to be mindful of our time and budgets and ask for help if we need it. To help with multitasking, some people prefer to time-block. Others use tools such as project planners to help them plan and split out jobs and smaller tasks.

After using these strategies or tools, if the budget doesn't allow or you realistically don't have the hours to complete all of your tasks, ask for help. Constant multitasking can lead to burnout.

While being an effective multitasker is a much sought-after skill, so is delegating and requesting help when you have too many tasks to complete so you don't get to the burnout stage.

What Is Multitasking and How to Achieve It in the Workplace
What Is Multitasking and How to Achieve It in the Workplace

Frequently Asked Questions

Multitasking is a skill that can help us in our everyday lives, both in the workplace and at home. The ability to work on more than one task at the same time saves us time in the long run and makes us more efficient in our work.

Having a long to-do list can often be stressful, so having the ability to successfully multitask also leads to a calmer and less stressful day-to-day life.

Anyone can multitask but being able to do so successfully takes practice. Some people are naturally more effective at multitasking.

It is worth remembering that multitasking is a learned skill that takes time and patience to hone. Approaching your to-do list in an organized way, planning, prioritizing and grouping similar tasks are all ways to improve and master the skill of multitasking.

Multitasking is a valuable skill to be able to demonstrate to employers. The ability to successfully work on multiple tasks simultaneously shows employers that you are productive and efficient in the workplace.

There are many pros to being able to multitask, but taking on too many tasks at once can lead to workplace burnout. Multitasking can also mean that you don't give any of the tasks your full attention, leading to errors that you have to fix. This results in taking more time to complete the tasks than initially intended.

Practicing multitasking through working on similar, more manageable tasks and less complex tasks is an excellent way to get into the habit of multitasking. The more you practice your multitasking, the more adept you become at it.

Multitasking is possible through effective organization and planning. Writing down your list of tasks, ranking these in order of importance, thinking about what jobs require similar effort or concentration, and grouping these tasks to work on simultaneously means you can effectively multitask.

Successful multitasking requires eliminating distractions, being 100% focused on the tasks you need to complete and being realistic with your time and budget.

There are many benefits to multitasking, including a calmer day-to-day life and increasing your productivity and efficiency at work.

Multitasking is a much sought-after skill. Many roles in the workplace require you to work on multiple tasks or projects at the same time. Being able to demonstrate to employers that you can successfully multitask can open up different job opportunities for you.

Final Thoughts

Multitasking can be a bonus for everyone, but it needs to be approached carefully to make sure your work is benefitting. Ensuring that you write down all the tasks you need to complete, prioritize these tasks and recognize which tasks can be worked on simultaneously are essential elements of successful multitasking. Being disciplined in your focus and not getting distracted are necessary for a successful outcome.

When practiced well, multitasking comes with many benefits. The ability to successfully multitask is a valued skill that employers look for in their employees. Most roles regardless of sector require employees to be able to work on multiple tasks at the same time.

Developing and mastering your multitasking skills can help position you as an effective and efficient employee, improving your self-esteem and job satisfaction as well as opening opportunities to advance your career.