Some people claim there is no such thing as multitasking and others say it is, in fact, unproductive. Certainly, we have different ways of working and there is more than one way to achieve a result.
I start lots of things, work on them concurrently and appear to work in chaos, some random (dis)order that only makes sense to me. The most notable characteristic of how I work is jumping from one activity to another as my brain sparks with ideas. Right now, for example, I’m writing two blogs, hopping between one and the other as ideas come to me. (I’m also doing a jigsaw, but I’ll explain that later on).
Productive? It doesn’t like seem it should be, but it is. How? Because I know how my brain works, and I work with, not against it.
It might look like chaos to an outsider, but I thrive on it. To a point. The proactive juggling keeps my brain busy, switching from one thing to another sparks my interest and that in turn creates momentum and positive pressure that motivates me.
My brain is a busy place. And it gets distracted. I get bored easily and crave new or different things to occupy me so, in order to get things done, I entertain and feed my brain. I work in chunks of time, it might be an hour, it might be two minutes, and I use a contrasting activity as a break, a time to refresh my concentration.
I call these contrasting activities ‘sorbet tasks.’
Like a sorbet course in a meal, the ‘sorbet task’ cleanses my brain of what I was doing and sets it up refreshed and ready to do the next thing.
A transition task might be five minutes spent reading, five minutes checking email or 10 minutes having a cuppa or putting the washing out. Whatever it is doesn’t really matter, as long as you change focus – and put your active/work brain on pause.
My personal favourite sorbet task is tidying. Probably as an antidote to the chaos and pressure I generate to get my brain fired up, clearing things away for five minutes and creating order soothes my brain and helps me switch gear. In addition, I use it as a way to catalogue what I’ve done and what there is to do. If there’s nothing left to tidy, I do a bit of a digital jigsaw.
But some people stay too long on one task and more than that, they struggle to switch context. This is where multitasking can be unproductive, but sorbet activities can be useful here too.
They can be an enforced break, built into a schedule to help build time management skills and make a new habit. A time to switch off from one activity before starting the next and consciously stopping thinking about one thing to create space to switch focus to another.
Chunking time is a regular conversation topic with clients when we look at time management and productivity, especially those struggling to get things done because they are always so busy.
Identifying and introducing personalised sorbet tasks is a good (and proven) way to help you move from one activity to another, closing off the previous task and getting mentally ready for the next one. They help you make the transition, be more productive and stay focused.
Multitasking can work but only if you are doing the tasks, not spending your time and energy jumping and switching between them.
If you’d like help to identify ways in which you could be more productive, why not try a session of career therapy?