Brittany Allen
October 27, 2014 6:00 am

An article published earlier this year on Forbes tried to shock the world into productivity with this harrowing piece of copy: “You have as many hours in a day as Beyoncé.” Okay. . . kind of true, right? Technically, each of our days are twenty-four hours long, and less likely to be filled with dance classes, music-video shoots, and kisses from Jay-Z than Queen Bey’s typical Tuesday. Some of us have the good fortune to get paid to do what we love, while a lot more of us owe most of our waking time to The Man, or to the Fannie Mae corporation, or to our wailing infants. While it seems like it should be easy to carve out a single hour for yoga (or even meditation!) in a bustling day, why is it actually so G-D hard to do?

Here’s where the allure of multi-tasking comes in. If you work from home, or if you’re managing a career and a family, or if you’re trying to balance work-you-love with work-that-pays. . . the idea of accomplishing two tasks in one go is about as appealing as extra cheesecake. So with accessory tips from experts, here’s how to multi-task like a pro. . . or, Beyoncé.

1. Have perspective!

I can’t tell you how many hours my recently inaugurated freelancing career has lost to hours spent sitting around, stewing in self-doubt. (Because all a person has to do these days to invite an onslaught of negative feelings is go on Facebook for two minutes and see how great everyone else’s lives are.) But the trick to not wallowing is a funny little thing called perspective. No, my friend: you, unlike Beyoncé, may not be off to record a hit single in a fancy studio this afternoon, but that’s not necessarily because you’re a sad sack with no drive. It’s because you’re not an incredibly famous person.

The sooner you can start to think of your career, or family life, as a fallible creation–an arena in which you can only do your personal best–the happier you’ll be. Banish the pesky monkey who keeps telling you to “just give up!” from your back. Chances are, that’s the same little voice that’s always cajoling you to halt your errands and buy an ice cream cone.

2. Set reasonable goals

In tandem with tip one: don’t listen to your ego when it tells you, “I’ll just stay up ’til four a.m. tonight if I have to. I want to finish a new draft of a screenplay, buy my bridesmaid’s dress, and file my taxes before this day is out!” It’s great to be ambitious, but it’s a lot more effective in the long run to be . . .sane. Start to take honest inventory of your average productivity in a single day, provided you slept regularly the night before.

If you find you’re ending each evening with feelings of doubt and sadness because you didn’t get to the final thing on your to-do list, consider the possibility that you overloaded the to-do list. On the flip side, if you noticed that a good two hours were lost during your warming-into-work phase of the day in which Twitter and Instagram held sway over memos, resolve to cut out some of the click-bait tomorrow, or get a jumpstart on busy work on the subway commute in–and then, DO THAT. There are many ways to work and make more time in a week, but there’s never a need to run yourself into the ground. Seek balance.

3. Don’t actually multitask–micro-task!

Not to pull the rug out from under your computer chair, but here’s the real deal: according to recent studies, actual multi-tasking, as we’ve grown to think of it, does not technically make for a more efficient worker. Put another way, diluting one’s attention over a bunch of simultaneous tasks tends to mean that all the tasks are completed with lesser quality, and they take longer to finish. So instead of looking at your work to-do list as an impossible juggling act, readjust your definition of “multi-tasking.”

If you’re faced with an epic to-do list and only a few hours to knock off the essentials, attempt to break down your tasks into small, bite-sized packages. Say you have to call a friend, skim an article, and send an e-mail. Don’t actually try to do all three at once. Rather, call your friend, but keep the conversation short and sweet. Skim the article, but keep the music off, and close all the other tabs on your computer while you read. Only after you’ve finished this, send the e-mail. Give yourself the luxury of brief but un-wavering focus on a single thing, and even if this focus only lasts for a few minutes, I promise you will see the results. You don’t do yourself any professional favors by trying to create mental mayhem by doing everything simultaneously.

It’s like that old adage: if you want something done, you can have it done two of the three following ways: cheap, fast, and good. You can train yourself to work faster, and via setting goals and retaining perspective, you can train yourself to work ‘well.’ But don’t cheapen your mind with excessive, panicky distractions. That doesn’t help anyone, especially you.

Images via, via, viavia

Advertisement