Multi-tasking Musings


“Multi-tasking Musings”

By Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS


“One’s action ought to come out of an achieved stillness; not to be a mere rushing on.” – D. H. Lawrence

It’s really quite lovely. Aquamarine bordered in navy with an inner border of swirling peacock feathers. A beautiful repository for the twenty or so tasks I must accomplish this morning, my To Do List sits patiently on my desk waiting for me to reduce it to nothing.


For someone who is decisive, organized, industrious, the To Do List is both friend and foe. More often than not, a friend who keeps me on track, helps me to focus, and allows me to accomplish many tasks in a given time frame. Some days, like today, my To Do List is a foe, a swarm of butterflies fluttering before my eyes, impossible to catch.

As I sat here struggling to corral the butterflies, exhorting myself to end the procrastination, I couldn’t help but remember me in college. Back then I had a tremendous capacity for concentration, prioritization, and quickly completing whatever needed to be done in the allotted time. I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to that version of myself over the years.

The only explanation I could come up with is that my decades spent in the corporate atmosphere, with its expectation of constant multi-tasking has trained me to flitter from task to task as each one presents itself. Particularly in a call center or customer service departmental scenario, new crises present themselves constantly.

I recall the substance of an article I read a few years ago (yet sadly am unable to find the article to share it with you here) that stated that multi-tasking is not a natural Human trait. The article states that multi-tasking was invented for computers to be able to perform calculations and function properly.  It makes sense that as employees are continually asked to do more, to be more productive, put in longer hours – essentially to be more machine-like – that we would develop machine-like traits.

Yet, how good is the work that is produced under these conditions? Certainly it is good enough to get the job done. In order to rise to the level of Superlative in our businesses (specifically in relation to the service we provide) we must strive to produce work that is better than Good Enough. One way I have found to produce superlative work in a limited timeframe is to follow these steps:

  1. Compile a working Master List of the tasks you need to complete, categorizing them as Complete Today, Complete This Week, Complete This Month.

  2. Within each list, prioritize each task or project.

  3. Gather everything you need in order to complete each task in one place (my favorites are the plastic, Velcro-closure, expandable project folders), label it, and store the folders in order of priority. Sticky-tabs with the priority number are a good visual aide.

  4. When it comes time to work on the next item on the list, take out only that project folder and get to work. Oftentimes, the visual clutter of more than one project is a distraction.

  5. If you have conflicting priorities, give each top priority a specific, set amount of time to work on it. This helps keep you focused and moving forward.

  6. Re-prioritize as necessary.

  7. Keep a status sheet at the beginning of each file to make it easy for you (or anyone filling in for you) to not waste time figuring out what has been done already and where to start. Update the sheet at the end of your time limit. File. Then start on your next task.

This method has produced consistent results for me over the years. It replicates the productivity of multi-tasking while dramatically improving the quality of the final product , reducing stress, and conserving your energy for when you really need it.


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