You probably clicked on this article thinking you were going to unleash on me for writing about multitasking. After all, it’s been shown in many different studies and rehashed on blogs and news articles that multitasking doesn’t work. And while I agree that most forms of multitasking are actually continuous partial attention, I’ve noticed that highly productive people have managed to figure out the best ways to multitask and increase their productivity. If you want to find some pockets of time to learn something new, get a few more business calls in, or just relax then read on to learn more about the best ways to multitask.
Best Ways to Multitask
- Maximize your commute
Unless you WFH every day, you’re using some portion of your time to commute to work. While commuting is just terrible for you overall, whether driving or using public transportation, it IS prime time to do some other things. Listening to podcasts is a perfect example of being able to do two things at once, and something easily done while driving or on a bus or train, even when packed in like sardines. If you take public transit, of course you can read magazines, books, blog articles but I’ve found one of the best ways to multitask is by doing something you usually wouldn’t consider – why not use that time to learn a foreign language? Thanks to Duolingo, which is designed for quick bursts of language learning and has a great smart phone app for your phone or tablet, this is entirely possible. Or if you prefer the classic method, you can pick up foreign language downloads and play them in the car. My personal favorite is to download MP3’s digitally from my local library. I can brush up my Español when I want and it’s completely free! If you are driving yourself, no one has to listen to you (and your bad accent) while learning either.
If you commute by car, you can schedule phone calls while driving. Call friends that you’ve been meaning to talk to, or business calls that can be done during commuting hours. This works especially well if you work with team members in other parts of the country or world who may have different work times. If you don’t want to have a full conversation, but want to stay connected, use an app like Voxer – where you can basically send voice text messages to your contacts. What’sApp also allows you to communicate via voice rather than type out your message. Just remember – safety first here. I find it’s much easier (and safer) to do a personal call to a friend or loved one that attempt a business call that requires concentration, even when using a hands-free device. And absolutely do NOT text or attempt a call unless it’s using a hands-free device.
- Get fit, mentally and physically
Similar to commuting time, when you are working out you have a prime chunk of time to listen to podcasts, watch TV shows you haven’t had time for, or listen to audio books – either that juicy novel you’ve been wanting to read or use the time for non-fiction learning. And if you have a tablet, you can even watch videos on an app like Udemy to continue your studies or learn a new hobby while you’re on the elliptical.
One of my favorite best ways to multitask is by combining #1 and #2 above and commuting while working out – a solid two-for-one! If you can swing it, running or biking or walking are all amazing ways to get your heart rate up and get you to work at the same time. You’ll need to plan ahead of course, making sure you have fresh clothes, a place to shower, etc, but once you’ve done it a time or two it’s actually much easier than it sounds. For me, living in a dense urban environment like San Francisco, it’s much more enjoyable than taking a crowded bus to work.
- Sleeping time
You’ve probably heard of people listening to language or other kinds of self-improvement tapes while sleeping. Did you know this actually works — research has shown it is possible to learn while sleeping. It’s extremely helpful in learning a second language for instance. There have been reports of students recording lectures and playing them as they fall asleep to remember the lesson without memorizing paper or electronic notes.
And if you’re trying to improve specific areas or break a bad habit (or two) hypnosis can help there too. According to this NBC news article hypnosis can overwrite parts of your brain to trigger improved sets of behaviors. It’s definitely something to look into if there are any areas of your life you’d like to get better at (or if you want to kick your smoking or chocolate habit).
- Tiny unplanned-for pockets of time
Are you running errands? Having to stand in line at the bank or pharmacy? If you know you’ll have these microscopic pockets of time, then have your to-do list ready. Can you batch all your texting to this time? Can you send emails? Can you make a quick phone call? Make sure you keep a list of these kinds of task and have them handy and ready for when you need to wait for any reason. One of my favorite apps is Pocket (so aptly named!), which allows you to save website articles to read later. Catching up in my favorite blogs is a great way to pass a small bit of time.
- Manufacturing more time
Want to give yourself more time? No, I don’t have a time machine….yet….but I have the next best thing. I have a Virtual Assistant. Okay, so she’s not the TARDIS, but she does help me. I know this isn’t true multitasking, but it is a big productivity boost that I think most people could take advantage of. I use my VA to outsource certain tasks I don’t need to personally do – like internet research, social media management tasks, etc. This can free up big chunks of time in my week. My personal preference is TimeEtc, although these days there are many different options for virtual assistants.
So, in summation you should avoid multitasking as a general rule, but I’ve found the things I talked about above are the best ways to multitask, and will help you increase productivity, free up time for other work, and let you find some much needed time during your everyday activities for learning, entertainment, and fun.