Multitasking in the workplace
In the workplace, you will often be involved in switching back and forth between different tasks. The ability to switch from one task to another effectively is referred to as multitasking. Multitasking will help you save time, increase productivity, and reduce procrastination.
Saving time: Completing multiple tasks simultaneously helps you save time. If you are writing an email while briefing a colleague on a new project you completed two tasks at the same time instead of completing them separately which could take twice as much time.
Increasing productivity: You will accomplish more in less time. The more work you finish, the more productive you are.
Eliminating procrastination: Completing more tasks will make you feel accomplished and the feeling of accomplishment will motivate and encourage you to do the best you can in the workplace.
To be able to multitask efficiently you will have to develop or improve on a set of skills. The most common skills required to be able to multitask efficiently are: being able to organize, being able to prioritize, schedule, and delegate.
Organization: Effective multitasking means knowing which tasks you need to complete and when they need to be completed. Planning out your day, keeping your desk as tidy as possible (as well as your computer desktop!) will help you a lot when you need fast access to documents, notes, or emails you need to finish a task.
Prioritization: the ability to assess your responsibilities and tasks and organizing them in terms of importance. You can choose to finish the simpler tasks first and spend the rest of your time on more complex tasks. You could also choose to begin with tasks that are more time-sensitive and then finish up with tasks that are less urgent. Maximize your time by creating an order.
Scheduling: Plan your time so you can ensure meeting deadlines and goals. Planning your daily activities and taking into consideration possible unexpected tasks will help you choose where you can multitask while staying on schedule.
Delegating: Delegation is when you ask other people to help you complete a more complex task. When delegating you will usually assign smaller parts of a complex task to your colleagues or team members which will help you to focus on tasks with a higher priority
Improving your multitasking skills
We created a list of steps that will help you improve your multitasking skills.
- To-do list
- Prioritize tasks
- Reduce distractions
- Monitor progress
- Use a time tracking software
To-do list: Create an action plan for yourself by making a to-do list. A to-do list will help you with having a clear picture of what you need to do for the day. When your workday starts, you should spend a little time to write a list on paper or in a computer document.
Prioritize tasks: After creating a list of tasks you want to complete, you should reorganize the list by priority, highest to lowest. You can decide which tasks have a high or a low priority by placing them into the following categories:
- Urgent and important: High priority tasks that you need to complete first.
- Not urgent and important- These tasks can be done at any time during the day but provide great value when they are done.
- Urgent and not important- Low importance tasks that must be completed so you can get to more important tasks.
Reduce distractions: You should control your devices such as smartphones or watches and desktop applications. If you keep proactively checking for notifications it will interrupt your workflow and you will lose focus. Keep your notifications off and check for new emails only a couple of times per day.
Monitor progress: You should check what you accomplished during the day, this will help you stay on track and on schedule. If you are behind your schedule, you may want to focus on one task instead of attempting to switch to another task, this will help you finish the most important tasks quickly.
Use a time tracking software: Without having actual data it will be hard to get a clear picture of how productive you are. Using a time tracking software can improve how you work. Once you see your time recorded, you could realize that you are switching from task to task too frequently and not focusing on high priority tasks. Small adjustments made to your workflow can have a huge impact on your overall efficiency.
Delegation in the workplace
Delegation is a very important part of multitasking, it helps you complete complex tasks while your colleagues or teammates work on smaller tasks. People often choose not to delegate, they might be feeling shame to ask for assistance or just want to do everything by themselves. Doing everything by yourself can contribute to stress and overload. Let's touch upon how you can use other people's strengths to your advantage and start delegating successfully.
To find out how to delegate successfully, we must first figure out why people choose to avoid it.
Sometimes it might be easier to do something by yourself. For example, let's say you know everything about the product or service you want to make a presentation for, you will know the content inside out, point out all of the benefits of the product in a second. But is this a good use of your time? It might be easier to do it all by yourself rather than first explaining what has to be done to someone else. There are two main reasons why you might want to delegate this task.
- By doing the work yourself, you might be failing to make the best use of your time which can be spent on further developing the product strategy and coming up with fresh ideas.
- It is useful to involve other people in the project. You will actively be developing other people's skills and when a similar project pops up in the future, you can be confident that the task will be done well, with less direct involvement from you.
Determine what can be delegated
You have to understand that you can not delegate everything. First, you have to determine the following:
- Is there someone on your team that has access to the necessary information or expertise that is needed to complete the task successfully. You have to determine If it is critical for you to do the task yourself or someone else can do it.
- Will this task help the other person to develop their skills and grow?
- Will a similar task pop up in the future?
- Do you have free time to delegate the task effectively?
If all of the four mentioned point to a yes, the task should be delegated.
Determine the right person for the task
You should take into consideration the knowledge and skill the person you want to delegate a task to has. When you start delegating to someone, you might notice that the person needs more time than you to complete the task. You are an expert in a specific field, the person you are delegating to is still learning. Have patience.
- Do you have the time to train the person so the task can be completed efficiently?
You should take into consideration the current workload of the person you want to delegate a task to.
- Does the person you wish to delegate a task to have time to dedicate to it? You can easily find out how much work the person already has if your team uses a time tracking application. Simply look up what the person logged into the time tracker so you can get a sense of their work schedule.
How to delegate
You should clearly articulate what needs to be done and make sure the person you are delegating a task to understands the task. Include people in the process of delegation, you can empower them by letting them decide what and when is to be delegated to them.
You should always provide adequate support and be available for questions. As mentioned before: You are the expert, the other person is still learning. Let your team members know that you have to know if they stumble upon any problems that are keeping them from finishing the task.
Understand that the way you would do something is not the only way to do it. You should let the person you are delegating a task to take control of the methods and processes used to finish a task.
You have to establish control and set deadlines and take time to review the work that was submitted. Only accept a fully completed work, if you do not or you accept work you are not satisfied with, the person doing the work will not learn to do the work properly.
If you receive work that you are satisfied with, make sure to reward or recognize the effort that was put into it. The recognition will go a long way, it will build confidence and will result in improved work on the next task you delegate. A win-win situation.
In conclusion, if you want to be successful at delegating tasks you must first choose the right task to delegate, find out who the right person for the job is, and delegate in the right manner. There is a lot to the successful delegation, but when you delegate effectively you can be sure that you will achieve more.