Multi-tasking + Procrastination = Multi-crastination

“To do two things at once is to do neither.”  —Publilius

Tantek MultitaskingWhat happens when multitasking goes bad? In a time when we are asked to do more with less, multitasking and work seem to go hand in hand.  But do we sometimes use “multitasking” to distract ourselves from what really needs to be done?  In other words, do we become “multicrastinators?”

When we choose to address more pleasant tasks, and avoid tackling more unpleasant, yet important tasks, we end up with a whole lot of nothing done.  We are all guilty of it: checking our email before returning that call about an internal issue; or typing up meeting minutes before tackling a Journal problem. Well, with the New Year, why not make a resolution to make over your work technique to avoid “multicrastinating”?

Here are a few suggestions to help you better multitask without procrastinating. While it may be painful at first, applying these techniques will help tackle your to-do list, leaving you less stressed and more effective.

How to Avoid Multicrastinating

1. Create a To-Do List. In order to accurately understand everything that needs to be done–both immediately and in the future–you need to make a to-do list.  Start your day by reviewing all the things with immediate deadlines, things that didn’t get addressed yesterday or last week, and things with future deadlines you want to tackle if you have time.

2. Set Priorities. Once you have created your daily, weekly, and long term to-do list, set priorities and due dates based on deadlines, importance, and resources available, and tackle the tasks accordingly.

3. Take Breaks. We are most productive when our minds are at ease and ready to tackle the task at hand.  Take 5 – 15 minutes to de-stress every few hours.  Use this time to check off your to-do list, grab a cup of tea, meditate, or give your body a stretch.

4. Break Down Large Tasks. Sometimes we avoid tackling a large task, such as budget preparation, because of the scale of the project.  If you have a large task at hand, break it up into feasible smaller tasks and create separate due dates for each of the smaller tasks.

5. Know How to Address Interruptions.  Some people are very good at handling interruptions, while others become overwhelmed when interrupted in the middle of a daunting task. First, it is important to understand how interruptions make you feel, and how good you are addressing them on the spot.  If you use interruptions as welcome distractions which then cause you to procrastinate, or if interruptions take you too far off-task, consider turning off your phone and alerts while working on critical tasks, or choose to work on critical tasks during the quieter times of the day (for example, lunch time or the end of the day). When interruptions are unavoidable, learn to separate “critical” interruptions from those that can be addressed later. Ask yourself where this should fall on your priority list.  If it’s something that can wait, teach yourself that it’s okay to put the non-critical interruption off until later.

6. Do It Now.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, complete some of the easiest tasks immediately.  Being able to complete quicker tasks and check them off your list will help you feel in control and accomplished, putting you in the right frame of mind for tackling your prioritized list of to-do’s.

7. Utilize Task Management Tools. There are a variety of tools available today to help you manage tasks and to-do lists.  Task management tools on your email, project management software, or free downloadable task management software can all help you organize your day-to-day tasks. You can set up due dates, reminders, delegate tasks, and keep track of recurring tasks through these systems.  Whichever technique you use, whether it be high tech task management software or a good old daily planner, be sure to write down all pending tasks as they created–at meetings, during a phone conversation, or as your boss drops by your desk–so they are not forgotten and can be addressed at the appropriate time.

8. Get Organized. An organized desk and computer will help you feel more in control of the tasks at hand, and help you be more efficient because everything will be in its correct place. Take 2-3 minutes at the beginning or end of the work day to organize your desk and computer so you can tackle the day’s tasks ahead of you in an effective manner.

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