Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.

Fresh out of college, you have dreams to touch the sky. Your friends are doing a pretty good job at some highly respectable places. Of course, at times you feel jealous with them. However, when you think of Steve Job’s, ‘your time is limited in this world, don’t waste it on ordinary things’ speech and you get all pumped up.

Out of sheer luck, you get your first job. You are feeling exhilarated. You are hungry to grow, expand, and drink deep out of life. You dream of being the most productive person in the company. Also, with so many choices around you, you add a lot in your plate. Sure. Why not? You can do multi-tasking, right?

An innocent thought that can inspire you to act and accomplish incredible things. However, if you are not careful with your dreams, they can turn to dust in no time. Sorry to break the bubble for you. However, hard work doesn’t always lead to productivity.

In a corporate world where 85% of the people hate their jobs, it is essential to create an environment where people love to work without feeling stressed. Hard work doesn’t bring stress; it is a lack of productivity that frustrates people at work.  

In times when scientists believe that multitasking is a myth – the only way to accomplish more than your co-workers is multitasking.

However, before I delve into the serious stuff, let me make your clear on what I mean by multitasking. When you switch your attention to multi-tasks at once, it generally impairs productivity. Moreover, instead of being productive, you get cumbersome.

In his excellent book, The One thing Gary Keller says,

“Extraordinary success is sequential, not simultaneous.”

Even the Pareto principle talks about focusing on that 20 % of things that deliver 80% of the results.

 

Often project managers find it challenging to focus on the most critical tasks. After reading this blog, you’ll find it easy to do things efficiently.  

So, let us agree on one thing. Here, multitasking is not about doing various things simultaneously. I am talking about managing and focusing on those few tasks that will deliver 80% of the results.

Now, when we are pretty much on the same page, let’s begin.

1- Create Realistic Expectations

I’ve come to this realization that the more projects I take, the more I have to manage. Which is obvious. However, unlike most people, I understand my limits. If I take more than four projects a time, unless I am using TaskQue task management software, it is impossible for me to complete the projects and expect a lot from myself.

Every project comes with specific details with which we can predict the timeline of the project. If you are not careful by the number of projects that you handle at a time, you will just be burying these projects one-by-one under a false hope of completing them one fine day.

Just like every other typical teen in my twenties, I’ve dreamed of becoming a millionaire by the age of 30, get married, grow my kids, and write a book. It was all fantastic to imagine things like this, but the sad reality is that I was dabbling with all the big ideas. After all, it feels great to own a mansion, buy a yacht, or even own two businesses, but that will be too much to expect from me.

So, this is the first step towards multi-tasking. To understand your limits and choose wisely whatever you’re putting on your plate.

2- Choose Wisely

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you're going to go far, go together.

Sure. At times it feels like you have to do it yourself. What if others mess-up? However, what if they do it better than you? You are a human being, and so you can only take a few things at a time. Understand what the tasks that can only be done by you are.

For example, when I started my e-commerce business back in my high school days, I was super-excited to take over Amazon and BestBuy. So, I started doing everything myself from marketing to social media to designing banners. The result – I don’t have that business anymore. The company started growing in exponential ways. Moreover, it was getting frustrating for me to handle all the things myself. I lost my ability to focus on the few things that were driving my business.

Once you’ve figured out what the few tasks that can give you 80% of the business, it will be easy to make peace with yourself and outsource the rest to others.

3- Outsource

One primary problem that project managers face while working on several tasks at once is not able to handle them well. As humans, you can only focus on a few things at a time.

As your business grows, so does your to-do list. To maximize productivity, it is essential to delegate and outsource work so that you can focus on the few, which are most important to you.

In this age, you don’t have to do everything yourself. You can do more in less time if you outsource work which can easily be handled by people who are smarter than you.

Moreover, this is costing you serious productivity issues. By giving away most of the work, you can refocus on the list that you have with you. This list will bring you closer to your desired outcome.

4 - List Management

As a project manager nothing can be done without making a list. Put your to-do items in a list, and you’ll be able to prioritize those items based on critical and urgent stuff.

There are a couple of online project management tools which can help you decide what tasks to be done first. Invest time, money in those tools. These tools, when learned and implemented, can save a lot of your precious time.

The best time to make a list is in the morning. Right after your morning Coffee, you can make a list of things that are most urgent for the day. You can also see which of the things that scheduled tomorrow are urgent. If you can, you can include these things in your list and see which of the things you can take care of today.

When you are done with the list, the next thing is to add similar ideas together and create a batch for related tasks.

5- Batching

Often when you are dealing with similar projects, you can batch the same processes and align them in one corner. When you know that these processes are performing specific tasks, it will be easy to take the one who needs your attention and leave out the rest. 

For specific tasks, you can get a lot a time slot and get it done in that time. For instance, if there are countless email, you can filter those emails in urgent, relevant, and junk. When you get some time, you can reply to these emails without any interruptions.

The most significant advantage of batching similar products together is that by doing those tasks, you’ll only invest part of energy on those tasks. The rest of the power can be used to do something which was pending for some reason.

Batching is an excellent practice. You can begin by batching one kind of task with another connected job. Take it slow. See how two things play together. Give it time. The goal of batching is to minimize interruptions, which is what we will look next. 

6 - Managing Interruptions Smartly

On average, a manager is interrupted every 8 minutes. After an interruption, it takes around 2.1 hours to refocus on the task.

Interruptions are the biggest killers of productivity for project managers. Multitasking is no different. When you try to do things while being interrupted focus is lost, this applies to office as well as working remotely from home.

There is a new layer of employees out there who prefer to work from home. Every project without proper feedback cannot proceed to its next step. As you can batch a couple of things together, it would be demanding that these things will bother you later.

As a project manager, you need to ensure that there are little or no interruptions while working on a project. For instance, upon receiving a message from a friend, people tend to engage in conversation, leaving behind what they were doing. Also, this creates a time lapse, which makes things challenging.

There are tools which can block things on your browser. While working on an important project, it is vital to use those blockers. Switch off the phone for that particular moment and inform everyone that you’re doing work which needs no interruption.

Set boundaries so that people in your office know that you are not available for that particular time slot. Turn off every form of notifications; don’t even talk to your family when doing some critical work. I am sure you can take out some time to switch off from the world and do something with laser-like focus.

7-  Prepare in Advance

One of the necessary hacks to get things done fast is to be prepared in advance. Whenever you are going for some big task, like batch or managing a big client, it is advised to be made in advance.

When you have all the things in a list – the steps that need to be discussed in a meeting, or the briefing that you need to give your employee, it will be easy for you to do so. Take out some extra couple of minutes and

What took an extra couple of minutes in preparation quickly saved me twenty minutes in clean up the way I used to do it.

If you’re going to manage multiple tasks, then preparing for those tasks ahead of time will streamline efficiency and as a result, increase productivity.

Doing anything without proper planning will not deliver profound results. That’s why it is vital to learn as much as you can about the task at hand.

8 - Take a Break from everything

Work is excellent, but too much work can kill you. More than 70% of the companies in the U.S use gamification to engage users and make them more productive.

Taking regular breaks from the project is the key to be more productive for the next one. A sheer load of work cannot help employees be more productive because science tells us that prolong attention to a single task can hinder performance which is why it is essential to take regular breaks from whatever work you are doing.

When you take a break, it relaxes the mind and creates a space of thinking about new ideas. Study creative procrastination and see how people are doing wonders while they take a break from work.

The Bottom Line

The goal of every project is to deliver it on time. Delivering project late is the greatest nightmare which cannot be replaced. Which is why it is essential to follow the tips mentioned above and see how making small changes can make you a better multi-tasker.

For most people, multitasking is just being busy. However, busyness has nothing to do with it. When you can take things one at a time and handle them with care, there is no reason that you won’t be able to do these things efficiently.

Reminding again that here, multitasking is not about doing things simultaneously will lead you to unproductive and troubled work life.

The goal of a project manager is to understand the requirement of the tasks given by the client and assign a team to that project. Take regular updates on the progress of the project and see how things are going if the things are going below the suggested timeframe, you can multitask and accelerate the speed.

Published by Syed Mohammad Anwer