How To Multitask: 16 Ways To Do It Effectively

Updated February 3, 2023

A person checks an online listing with two small boxes stacked on the desk in a stockroom. Another person fills small bags in the background to fulfill supply and demand.

Working effectively and efficiently can help you succeed at work, no matter what stage you're at in your career. Some people like to use a strategy commonly known as multitasking to complete many tasks at the same time. This strategy may help you to increase your productivity and complete tasks quickly.

In this article, we review what it means to multitask and share 16 multitasking techniques.

What is multitasking?

Multitasking refers to managing many tasks and responsibilities effectively at the same time. Most often, multitasking involves frequently switching between tasks until they're all complete.

Multitasking effectively can improve productivity and work satisfaction for some professionals. Doing so mindfully can help you manage multiple sets of goals and expectations within the same period of time, which can help you make a good impression at work.

Related: The Art of Multitasking: Definition + 25 Examples

How to multitask in 16 ways

If you want to use multitasking in your own life or career, here are some ways to do so:

1. List your objectives

If you want to multitask successfully, begin by establishing your goals. Make a list of what you need to accomplish and any relevant deadlines. You can work with other members of your team to help clarify objectives when necessary.

2. Omit unnecessary tasks

Next, decide which tasks on your list are really necessary. Consider the potential outcomes if you leave certain tasks incomplete. If a particular task have little impact, consider removing that task from your list altogether. Removing tasks from your agenda can make more time available for the ones that remain.

Related: Multitasking Skills: Definition and Example

3. Delegate when possible

With any remaining tasks, consider which ones you can delegate. Assigning tasks or parts of tasks to other people can help you get as much work done as possible in the shortest amount of time. When delegating, it's important to consider the skills and interests of those to which you're assigning tasks and to maintain open communication with those individuals so you can assist them if necessary.

4. Prioritize remaining tasks

Prioritizing tasks according to importance and urgency can help you decide what to complete first or where to focus your attention. To decide which tasks are important, you can consider the impact that task might have once it's complete. You can also prioritize according to your own interests or those of the organization for which you work. 

Read more: 11 Prioritization Strategies To Help You Arrange Your Tasks

5. Automate what you can

Once you've prioritized the work you intend to accomplish, consider using technology to automate what you can. For example, if you know computer programming, you might write a script to automatically answer certain kinds of messages. You might also develop a spreadsheet to perform calculations and save more time.

6. Group similar tasks

Grouping similar tasks can make your multitasking more efficient because it requires less mental effort to switch between the different tasks every time you do so. For example, answering a series of emails and responding to social media tasks nearly simultaneously might feel easier than switching between answering emails and organizing physical files. 

Some tasks may relate so closely that it makes sense to combine them into one process. For example, this may be true of reviewing a list of donors for current contributions and sending each donor a thank you note. 

Related: The Pros and Cons of Multitasking

7. Estimate work time

It may also be helpful to make an estimate of how much time it's likely to take you to complete your work. This can help you maintain motivation and focus while multitasking. Incorporate breaks into this time estimate to get the most accurate estimate possible. 

8. Make a schedule

After estimating times, you may use what you determine to make a schedule to help guide your work. Consider setting personal deadlines for tasks or groups of tasks. Scheduling your day by task and duration can also help you stay on track. You can use a timeline, calendar or time-tracking app to keep track of your schedule. 

Related: How To Make a Daily Work Schedule

9. Digitize your list

Consider using an electronic tool, such as a task management application, to make your multitasking even more efficient. Some productivity apps notify you of deadlines and necessary tasks. Electronic versions of timing tools and to-do lists can also help by tracking your success over a long period of time.

Related: What Is the Pomodoro Technique? (And How It Can Increase Productivity)

10. Minimize additional distractions

Try to minimize the potential for additional distractions when multitasking. Multitasking involves switching rapidly between multiple tasks, so avoiding extra mental demands can help you focus your energy on your most productive objectives. To do this, consider putting your phone in a different room, closing out of social media and asking housemates to give you privacy until you finish.  

11. Leverage downtime

As you work through your to-do list, notice moments that would normally be less productive and think about how you can make them more productive. For example, if you're waiting in the lobby for an appointment, you might use that time to catch up on answering emails. You might also use an otherwise unproductive commute to complete reading or develop presentations.

Related: What To Do With Downtime at Work (8 Ideas To Consider)

12. Work at a sustainable pace

Multitasking can be demanding work, so it's important to work at a pace that feels sustainable. Consider arranging your tasks so you alternate challenging or intense projects with simple ones. You can also evaluate your abilities as you go and change your schedule to accommodate what you learn about yourself and the pace that best suits your needs. 

Related: 12 Tips To Stop Procrastinating at Work

13. Single-task when necessary

If you encounter a task that requires greater focus, switch to single-tasking. Sometimes it's more efficient to apply your entire attention to one complex task before moving on to the next. Move between multitasking and single-tasking strategies depending on the characteristics and complexity of each task.

14. Schedule breaks

Taking periodic breaks can also help you maintain productivity. If you notice that multitasking is causing mental or physical fatigue, consider taking a break to refresh your energy. You might also schedule periodic breaks using an alarm or timer. You may find that you return to multitasking more productive than you were before your break.

Related: How To Take a Break From Studying in 7 Steps

15. Reflect periodically

When you're multitasking, reflect on your progress periodically. Determine whether you're working on the most important tasks based on your priorities before beginning work. Modify your to-do list and priorities as needed.

Related: 100 Reflection Questions for Personal and Career Growth

16. Celebrate your successes

Even if you plan to continue multitasking, remember to celebrate your success when you complete a task. This can help you remember that you're making progress and improve your motivation to continue. To celebrate, consider taking a quick break, sharing your success with a colleague or crossing the item off a list.

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