There’s no question that multitasking is more than just an expectation for today’s freelancers: It’s a necessity. Technology adds to the pressure to do many things at once by keeping people perpetually tied to their work and creating an ongoing sense of communication urgency with clients. (How often have you checked your email or tapped out an IM while doing something else?)
But there may be an upside: Nearly six in 10 marketing and advertising executives surveyed by The Creative Group said that multitasking improves on-the-job productivity. That said, juggling too many tasks without prudence can lead to big problems and unnecessary stress.
Here are some tips to help ensure your multitasking efforts lead to positive outcomes:
Prioritize your projects. Multitasking is a bit of a misnomer because most people are unable to successfully attend to more than one task at once. In reality, they do one thing, stop and move to the next thing, and shortly after switch to something else.
Make it easier to transition from one activity to another by understanding exactly what’s on your plate and the order in which they must be accomplished. List all the tasks you must accomplish for the day and the week. Which are most important? Which have the closest upcoming deadlines? This will help bring some order to your multitasking process and make you more productive.
Group similar tasks together. Multitasking can be especially inefficient when you’re trying to tackle several things at once that aren’t related. Choose tasks that complement each other and, ideally, can help achieve a larger objective. For example, you might work on several to-dos for a new microsite – reviewing user research, creating wireframes and designing art for the page.
Know when it’s OK to go on autopilot. On any given workday, there will be times when you can accomplish several things quickly without worrying about making a critical misstep. For example, you might be able to tidy the files on your physical desktop at the same time you sort or rename documents on your computer. You may discover that routine multitasking can provide a much-needed mental break from all the creative work that typically fills your day.
The bottom line: If a job requires your full attention, give it. Don’t attempt to multitask when working on critical or unfamiliar tasks (like a new project you just landed), or engaging in a meeting or phone call with a client where you might miss something important if you aren’t completely focused.
The Creative Group (TCG) is a specialized staffing service placing interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations professionals with a variety of firms. More information, including online job-hunting services, candidate portfolios and TCG’s award-winning career magazine, can be found at creativegroup.com.