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Multitasking the right way

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Published: 30 April 2021

Student taking notes

As a university student, you’ll have a lot of demands on your time.

Whether you’re working, looking after kids or anything else, it can sometimes feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done and study at the same time.

It’s tempting to see multitasking (or trying to do lots of things at once) as the solution.

But that can be difficult as our brains aren’t really trained to handle more than one thing at a time.

There are ways you can boost your skills though, so read on to find out how to become a multitasking master.

Don’t do too much

Yes, it’s possible to learn how to multitask, but everyone has limits. You only have 24 hours in your day, much of which is taken up with sleeping, eating and getting rest to keep you going.

The first thing you need to do is come up with a realistic picture of how you’re going to work.

Write down all the tasks you want to complete and how long you think they’ll take. It’s best to over-estimate here to give yourself a little wiggle room.

Urgency vs importance

Now you’ve got your list, you need to decide your priorities. Basically, what tasks have tight deadlines, and which will make the most impact in the long-term?

Use the ‘Eisenhower Principle’ to prioritise what you have to do in the following order:

1) Important and urgent

2) Important but not urgent

3) Not important but urgent

4) Not important or urgent

Try not to be tempted to do tasks three and four as breaks between the more important stuff– that's how a multitasker loses track and things start to slip.

Build up your concentration

This is a fundamental part of any multitasking. To get the most done to the highest quality possible, you want to aim for focussing entirely on the thing you’re doing in the moment.

That can sound difficult, but there are ways to get better at it.

1) Beat procrastination: When you know you have a deadline coming up, the last thing you want to do is waste time on things that aren’t helping you reach your goal.

2) Meditation: Mindfulness is a popular way of improving your focus.

3) Take notes: Writing things by hand has been proven to help you stay on track with a task.

Cut out distractions

You might think multitasking isn’t for you, that you find it hard to focus on more than one thing at a time.

But the truth is you’re probably already are doing it! Look at your work environment. Are you listening to music? Do you have your phone notifications on?  

Chances are there are lots of things going on around you that are distracting your attention. But not all distractions are bad.

To find out which ones you can do without:

1) List everything around you that’s getting in the way of the work you must do.

2) Get rid of them one by one. Move to another room, turn off your phone etc.

3) See how that’s changed your ability to focus

If you’re finding it easier to work now, it’s time to remove that distraction from your working life.

Multitasking is not something only the very best workers can achieve. It's entirely possible to train yourself to get things done.

You can do more than one project at a time, just don’t try and do everything at once. With a little thought and practice, you can become a smart multitasker!

We’d love to hear your tips for dealing with big workloads. Share your thoughts with the University of Sunderland in London community on FacebookTwitterInstagram and LinkedIn using #WeAreSunLon.