How Not to Multitask like a Pro
5 min read

How Not to Multitask like a Pro

Context Switching can work well for the Manager’s Schedule but can have the opposite effect of Maker’s Schedule.
How Not to Multitask like a Pro

Multitasking means doing multiple tasks at the same time. It has an illusion of getting more things done in less time but it can have long-term opposite effects. Multitasking if linked with productivity can be a bad combination.

For example, you can make recipes that you cook daily while watching television but you can rarely follow the unknown recipe while watching television. This ends up in two ways:

  1. You end up ruining the recipe
  2. You end up not indulging in watching TV

Either way, neither of the two tasks is done with your full attention.

I remember when I started to learn to drive. I had a difficult time driving while the music played in the background. It took my attention from driving to listening and it became harder to focus on driving.

In this article, first, I have mentioned the drawbacks of multitasking. Then, I have introduced two interesting terms named Maker’s Schedule and Manager’s Schedule. They were first used by Paul Graham in his famous blog.

It became popular quickly due to the clear distinction between the time patterns of two categories.

Later, I have mentioned what good multitasking can look like.

Drawbacks of Multitasking

A Constant State of Overwhelm

Multitasking puts you in a constant state of overwhelm. You can get many things done but you can’t focus on one thing.

Multi-Tasking is an enemy of Flow State. If you want to focus on a single most important task, you must let go of the idea of Multitasking.

To avoid feeling constantly overwhelmed, you should prioritize your work and focus on that one thing.

Task Switching Penalty

Task switching has many shortcomings too. When you choose to switch your focus from one point of interest to the next, you spend some time getting used to the context and environment. This lost time is known as a Task Switching Penalty.

If you are a Manager who has no choice but to juggle multiple tasks, ensure that you give separate attention to each one of the tasks before finishing it hastily and handing it to the next person

Energy consumption. Unless you are Elon Musk

The secret behind Elon Musk’s massive productivity lies in his Work Ethic. He spends 80% of his time in working Design and Engineering. Unless you are Elon Musk, you got to chill. Burnout is real. Getting back on track after burnout is another business!

Maker’s Schedule vs Manager’s Schedule

These interesting terms were first introduced by Paul Graham. He says that there are two types of work patterns that people choose to function in.

Maker’s Schedule

Maker’s Schedule is dedicated to long-hour workers. It is for programmers, artists and writers. They build, code and create.

If you ask them to jump to attend 2 meetings each for 1 h with 2 h between them, chances are they will not get any of their creative work done. The creative process needs continuous nondestructive attention for long hours.

Context switching means hopping from task to task in small time intervals. These can be done in continuous time slots. Does not matter if you finish the task, you must switch your task.

This concept is unproductive for artists or programmers as they do not want to be disturbed from making a time-bounded piece.

In Paul Graham’s essay, he describes how creatives are makers and need their time in big chunks.

Manager’s Schedule

The most powerful people are on the manager’s schedule. It’s the schedule of command— Paul Graham

Context switching is the Manager’s best friend. If you allot time for each of your tasks and manage it, you can be an efficient manager that everyone wants to deal with, in your office or business.

Managers are by default expected to keep on switching tasks for greater efficiency. Because of their great decision-making skills, the ability to quickly grab the context of a pending project is what sets apart both schedules.

Manager’s Schedule is more time-dependent whereas Maker’s Schedule is project-dependent.

Tips for Makers

Anchoring Technique

The Atomic Habit writer, James Clear chooses only one task that would be non-negotiable. The task hence becomes the main highlight of the day. Building other tasks around it then become easier.

According to James Clear, 'taking action' one thing as best can drive better results.

This task decides the course of your other tasks, hence, it is called an Anchor Task.

Mastery requires focus and consistency — James Clear

80/20 rule

80% of your output will be defined by 20% of the most important tasks you choose. If you have 10 tasks on your list, choose two cuts out the rest. Focus on these two till you get to the set milestone.

The goal here is not to finish the task in one go as it may vary from task to task and person to person. The goal here is to give you 100% focus and go in a flow state where your creativity flows swiftly.

Saying NO

The people who do the most valuable work have a remarkable willingness to say no to distractions and focus on their one thing — James Clear

Being busy is looked at as a wow factor in our society. However, when we choose to say NO to most things, we make room for meaningful things.

Focus on Signal over Noise — Elon Musk

Tips for Managers

Time Blocking

Block your work or meetings in time slots. This method is also called Time Boxing. The advantages of these are immense.

You have control over how you would feel after watching the birds-eye view of your day.

For example, if you determine that no particular meeting will provide any value, or can be replaced with a phone call, then you can end up saving a lot of time.

Time blocking will help you keep track of your tasks. It will show you how far you have come and what all you have achieved.

According to Harvard Business Review,

“This may be the single most important skill or practice you can develop as a modern professional, as it buys you so much time to accomplish anything else. It’s also straightforwardly applied and at no cost. Box some time to implement a version of this that works for you.”

Parkinson Law

Your work can be expanded or contracted according to how you manage your time. If you prioritize a specific task and focus on its completion, you will finish it within the set deadline no matter how unrealistic it can be.

This approach works best when you, for example, have fifteen days to finish a project and assume that the deadline is within the next five days. The goal is to take rapid action with no procrastination.

The combination of the 80/20 rule and Parkinson Law works the best!

Good Multitasking

Good Multitasking is where you do not need to concentrate on getting things done. This includes doing your dishes, mopping, cleaning your closet, watering plants, etc.

The best thing about them is; these chores can be used effectively by adding an attention-oriented task. This can be listening to podcast, radio music.

No matter how efficiently you multitask, you will never be able to get in a Flow State unless you focus on one thing and cut out distractions.

Conclusion

Multitasking is good for daily, known, predictable activities. It is not at all recommended to multitask while you are writing a pitch to your investor while on a call with one of your team members discussing work.

If instead, you focus on call first and then writing a mail, you give your attention to each one of them separately not having to compromise on both.

Context Switching can work well for the Manager’s Schedule but can have an opposite effect of Maker’s Schedule.


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