The Art of MultiTasking, or How to Juggle Many Balls and Not Drop Any.

Blue Scales SmallI was working out my schedule for the next three months the other day, trying to fit in three different writing projects, uni, nice things for other people that I’ve said I will do, socialising (otherwise known as remembering what my friends look like), bookkeeping type stuff for my partner and, well, sleeping.

It didn’t take long to realise that sleeping is going to be taking a back seat this quarter, unless I put some serious effort into flexing my MultiTasking muscle.

You know, that’s the one that’s underdeveloped in guys, and is the cited reason why women need 20 minutes more sleep each night than guys because, science.

The problem that I find is that very few of my tasks can actually overlap – sure, I can probably chuck a load of washing on while I’m writing, or feed myself and the dog at the same time (sometimes the dog will get a lovely sandwich and I get a bowl of hard, crunchy things… but I digress), but in the main, I can’t really write while I study law or accounting, or do the books or beta-read someone else’s novel.

Yesterday was meltdown day. Everything was too overwhelming, there were too many tasks and too many deadlines, so I went back to bed instead of facing up to what needed to be done. And while I love bed almost as much as I love my son (and sometimes it’s a tossup between them), I didn’t like being there yesterday.

So today, with a clearer head and actual pants on, I’ll be Getting Stuff Done.

Because basically, that’s all that MultiTasking is.

There’s a school of thought that says no-one actually MultiTasks at all – that women just have the ability to flick between numerous things in their heads mega-quickly, while men need a space between the different things. And that is the basis for how I Get Stuff Done.

So, first thing I do – pick something relatively quick and do it. Like writing a blog post. Like this one.

That sense of achievement buoys me along (tricks my brain) and I get that rush of endorphins and all the feels and I start to think, “Look at me finishing this one, small task! Evidence enough that I can do everything!”

Second thing to do is list down what needs to be done today. Let me say that again. List down what needs to be done today. Sure, there will be stuff you want to do, and stuff that it would be nice to do, but what is it that you absolutely, positively need to do today? What tasks will bring on the apocalypse if you leave them undone?

If, in fact, there are any, do them next. No-one will thank you if you bring on the apocalypse.

Third is to list the stuff you have to do, and number it off three times:

  • From most important to least important
  • From easiest to hardest
  • From shortest to longest

Using my crazy and garbled life as an example is always fun. So at this point, my list looks like this:

Importance Ease Length
Beta-read for Friend 1 9 10 9
Beta-read for Friend 2 10 11 10
Critiques x 4 for Crit Group 8 8 8
Accounting Post for Uni 2 4 1
Law Post for Uni 1 5 2
Training Assignment for Uni 5 13 13
Scheduled Writing 6 6 6
Go to the Bank 7 3 5
Prepare for Audition 3 12 12
Complete Poster 4 9 11
Call Friend 3 to organise weekend 11 7 7
Dishes 12 1 3
Folding Clothes 13 2 4

The first thing I notice about this table is that the accounting and law posts I need to do have low numbers across all three categories. So, knocking those guys off the list first keeps the warm and fuzzy feels going strong.

Then, it gets trickier. I will generally look at the top half of the important column, and see if there are corresponding top half numbers for the other two columns. In this case, there are 13 items, so the top half goes to 6 or 7. Scheduled writing time and going to the bank fall into these.

And finally, the importance column is the most important (I know, strange right?) So the things at the top of the list go next. My training assignment, preparing for an audition and completing a poster fall into these.

Alrighty. So now I have a plan. Two easy quick important things, followed by two medium-type things, followed by the other things at the top of the important list.

As you can see, dishes and folding of clothes don’t take much priority at my house, no matter how quick and easy they are.

Tomorrow, when I do this exercise again, some of the things that were less important will start to become more important. For example, the closer the date of my Critique Group meeting, the more urgent it will be to finish off the critiques. I suspect that dishes and folding of clothes will continue to be at the bottom of the list for a while yet…

So, that’s how I get my head around doing all the many and varied pieces of shizzle that I have to do. What about you? Do you have any tricks you can share that might help the people get their own personal shizzle together?

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As always, have a great day!

The Art of MultiTasking, or How to Juggle Many Balls and Not Drop Any.
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