Do you sometimes feel as though you’re on a treadmill in your professional life? You were coasting along comfortably at a “five” setting; yet the speed just got bumped up to 10. While you may be able to keep up briefly, you constantly fear being thrown off and having everything come crashing down. While you may not be able to control what’s being thrown at you or asked of you, there are ways to effectively manage your multitasking day.
First, you must admit and acknowledge these three truths:
1. You will never get it all done. While you may feel there is not enough time in the day to get everything done, it’s not actually a problem of supply. You have the same amount of hours that everyone else has—and has always had. It’s a problem of demand. Even if you work 24/7, there will still be unfinished business: things to do, people to see, reports to prepare and emails to read.
2. Your day will not always go as planned. That’s OK. Your success at the end of the day should not be based upon whether the schedule you set was followed, but on how productive you were at moving toward your goals. Just as a satellite navigation system recalculates as it goes off course, so will you have to continually reprioritize and adjust to changing situations.
3. Everything takes longer than you think it will. That’s OK, too. The high-quality output you demand of yourself may take a little longer to produce. If it’s on your schedule, it’s important that you do the best job you can; even if it means you can’t get to everything else on your plate.
At the end of a long day, do you look at everything you accomplished or do you focus on the incomplete to-do list? If you focus on the former, you have a feeling of completeness and self-gratification for a day well spent. If you focus on the latter, you focus on your shortcomings, never feeling as if you’re doing a good job.
To manage your “multitasking day,” you need to:
1. Effectively manage your goals. Before deciding what to work on, you need to know what you’re working for. If you have not established your goals, you can’t celebrate when you achieve one. Take a baseline snapshot of how you spend your hours in a typical day and week and whether it is helping you reach your goals.
2. Effectively manage your priorities. The most important decisions you make during the day are what actions to take or not to take. This prioritization will determine where your time, energy and focus will be spent. Ask yourself, “For every action taken or not taken, what is the intended result?” In choosing what to work on, you need to distinguish between the urgent and the important. Start to work early on the urgent before the deadline approaches.
4. Effectively manage conversations. When it comes to communication and managing conversations, it’s not just what you say, it’s what people hear. Say yes slowly. No single task you agree to do takes a long time; it’s when you say yes to multiple projects over and over again that you begin to have the feeling of being overwhelmed.
5. Effectively manage expectations. If you are overwhelmed by having more to do than you can possibly get done within the time committed, determine the most important priorities to complete and reset the deadlines with others.
6. Effectively manage technology. With all the new technologies, expectations for response time have been raised. With emails and texting, people not only expect replies; they expect quick responses as well. Your responses do not have to be long: “got it,” “no problem,” “will call this afternoon to discuss” are effective, and responding lets the sender know you received the message.
7. Effectively manage organization. Being unorganized can lead to your feeling busier than you actually are. Organization is a process, not an event, and it should be scheduled as a part of your day. Some people are naturally organized and others have to work at it. While some people are filers and others pilers, your goal should be to touch each piece of paper just once.
8. Effectively manage your mind and emotions. Feeling overwhelmed and overworked can lead to stress. When you find your mind and emotions wandering to the dark side, think, “Why worry?” Instead of worrying, go back to the source of the worry and write it down. Then reset your priorities, make a plan and take action to fix the conflict in your mind.
Michael Guld, president of The Guld Resource Group, is an author, speaker and entrepreneur whose business development expertise lies in increasing sales performance, marketing exposure, employee productivity and creating a world-class service experience. He is the creator of “Talking Business with Michael Guld,” heard at www.talkingbiz.net. Contact him at 804-360-3122 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.