3 Tips for Maintaining the Illusion of Multi-Tasking

Last time I mentioned the need to exercise the part of your brain that does focused, careful work.

But let’s face it. Multi-tasking is a reality (even if a perceived reality) of every busy entrepreneur. So you might as well get good at it. Here are three tips:

1. Maintain context
We are more productive multi-tasking if we stay in context or as Csikszentmihalyi would say, maintaining flow. For example, return phone calls, take phone calls or make phone calls all around the same time. Even though you might go from calling a client to ringing up your mechanic, you stay in “phone mode” and thus gain efficiencies (like having a headset, being in a quiet environment, having the documents).

Obviously not all phone calls will arrive at a specific time, but you can maximize the chance of that happening by scheduling call times.

Other contexts include sorting through your email (applying the “can I do that in two minutes?” David Allen rule), doing paperwork, doing online research, or running errands.

You can multi-task better if you don’t switch contexts too often.

2. File away out-of-context items
Of course, life happens. You read an email and it may require you to make a phone call or spend hours researching in the library or act on it immediately.

Resist the temptation.

If no one is dying because of inaction on your part, there is a good chance you can get to it a half an hour later.

So note it in your to-do list or post a memo on your “things I gotta do today” page, and continue finishing what you have been doing in your context.

Of course, this assumes that you have a good task tracking management system right?

3. Install a great filing system
An easy tip that alone can make all the difference in your office is having a filing system. Do you know where to find stuff? Do you know where to put stuff?

The easiest test of your filing system is this: if an auditor walks into your office and asks you, “can you tell me so and so about this transaction?”, how do you respond?

Do yourself a favour and buy a nice filing cabinet with clearly labeled file folders from A – Z. Eventually you may want a separate drawer for your projects, your clients, and permanent files, but one drawer is often enough.

What kind of tips have you found works for you?

Chris Hsiung
U Venture

One Reply to “3 Tips for Maintaining the Illusion of Multi-Tasking”

  1. Hi Chris,

    I recently attended an event hosted by Dr. David Rock who studies the brain. One of his theories is that we tend to do the less brain-draining work (deleteing emails, scheduling meetings) first but in actuality, because of the way our brain works, we would be more effective to do our most demanding creative work first. He also discusses the importance of practicing mindfulness in making us much more effective at work. His most popular book is called: Your Brain at Work. Brain food for thought. Thanks for the info.

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