Multitasking and Sequencing – How to Multitask the Right Way and Get Much More Done

By on January 21, 2019

Multitasking gets something of a bad rep when it comes to productivity circles. The argument goes that while having lots of balls in the air might make you feel like a productivity wizard, the truth is that our brains simply aren’t optimized for this kind of operation. They are single-core processors, or at least when it comes to cognitively demanding tasks.

Multiscreen Multitasking

And therefore, what we think of as multitasking is in fat better described as ‘serial tasking’ – or rapidly switching focus between tasks. This task switching inevitably incurs a fine as we are required to reorient to whatever it is we’re focused on. And thus, even the very most adept of multitaskers would in fact be better served by working through a to-do list in sequence.

The good news? There are exceptions. There are ways to intelligently complete simultaneous tasks that will save you significant time and help you to become far more productive. Similarly, by sequencing certain activities correctly, you can potentially save even more time. And by using the right technology, we can take all this to the next level.

GPD Pocket

As a new parent, this is something I’ve had to learn fast. Read on for some examples of how you can get more done, by doing more than one thing at once.

‘Zombie Tasks’

A zombie task can be described as any activity that wouldn’t be impaired if you were extremely tired.

zombie tasks

You wouldn’t want to respond to a very important email from a massive client while extremely tired, and you wouldn’t want to write an article and publish it either. But you probably would be fine to tidy your office, to stuff envelopes, or to edit images in PhotoShop.

These kinds of tasks are tasks that you can do while doing something else that requires a larger proportion of your cognitive resources. For instance, you can edit photos while you call someone on hands-free, or you can learn something on Skillshare or YouTube while you lift weights. This is the cognitive equivalent of driving while speaking to someone on the phone – and if it means you aren’t wasting time later on stuffing envelopes, then it can help you achieve more in less time.

Of course zombie tasks are also ideal for outsourcing.

Devices

Using the right technology can help you to do this, and this is an example of something I’ve found extremely useful as a parent. Recently you see, I’ve been spending a lot of time holding my baby until she falls asleep. That’s not ‘wasted’ time, but it sure isn’t very productive.

Yes, I know I should probably be gazing lovingly at my daughter and nothing else. But to be honest that does get a little old after an hour when she’s doing nothing but drooling with her eyes closed.

Working with baby

Which is why I bought myself a folding table that can change shape in order to hold a laptop at a range of angles. I can now hold Emmy on my chest, lean back on the sofa, and get some video editing or typing done.

It’s also why I ‘invested’ in the GPD Win 2. This is a hand-held Windows PC  meant for gaming, with a built-in X-Input controller that doubles as a mouse. Turns out controlling a mouse with thumbsticks is a kind of ideal option when you don’t have a table to lean on, as is the thumb keyboard. I often use this to upload work and send invoices while I’m in bed next to my wife. It’s more sociable than pulling out a massive laptop when I’m working late.

And with Steam Link, I can stream the big PC upstairs and that way get some video editing/coding done in a range of different positions/circumstances. For this, I also use ‘Wake On Lan’ which lets you wake a computer from sleeping as long as you’re on the same network. I made a video explaining how this works on Android Authority.

I also own a GPD Pocket – a tiny laptop that is ideal for putting in a pocket if you want to type while travelling. I wrote half of this article that way and it lets me grab moments of productivity when it would otherwise be impossible – during breaks in cooking for instance!

Multitasking in kitchen

Another similar recent purchase was a wireless Bluetooth earbud/hands-free kit. I use this to listen to Audible or Skillshare while changing nappies, or while cradling her next to my wife. The result is that I can get a lot more learning done.

And even the Galaxy Note 9 is really useful for researching topics that I’m going to write about later. The S-Pen combined with S-Notes means I can grab sections of text, make hand-written notes, snap photos and screen shots, and then put it all together in a kind of scrap-book.

Galaxy Note 9 productivity

Essentially, using the right tech creates opportunities to be productive where otherwise there would be none. And in a similar way, I have been finding lots of ways to get quick workouts in around the house. These devices might not be the right options for you, but the point is that the right technology and solutions can help you to get more use out of your time.

Sequencing

So there certainly are circumstances where multitasking makes sense. And for all the other times, you should think carefully about sequencing: the order that you are completing tasks.

The example I gave in my book, Thriving in the Gig Economy, was of uploading work I’ve completed. I used to write a blog post, proof read it, then upload it to WordPress where I’d add images and formatting. What I realized is that by combining the proof read with the formatting pass, I would save myself a good 5-10 minutes per post.

Thriving in the Gig Economy

Multiply that by the number of posts I would upload in a week, and I was saving hours. My wife calls this a ‘process fix’ – a term inherited from her old workplace.

You can likewise achieve something similar by thinking through the order of the other tasks and chores you need to do. If you need to research a topic – and we’ve now seen that you can do this through an earpiece while doing other things – then you might as well take out the trash first as you won’t be wasting any time. If you do the work first, then take out the rubbish, you’ll effectively be wasting time while reading up on a topic (potentially).

Working environment

Closing Comments

There are countless more examples of how you can use these changes to make yourself more productive, or even just to make dull tasks more enjoyable/tolerable. The point is though, that these changes are going to be unique to each person.

Therefore, the objective now is to examine your own routine and to identify all tasks that you complete regularly that take up a lot of your time and/or that don’t require a whole lot of specialist skills/processing power.

Now ask yourself if there are ways you can rearrange those tasks, combine them with other tasks, or make them easier by using technology. In effect, you’ll be compressing the time you spend on your projects, thereby leaving more time for the truly demanding and rewarding work, or just to hang out and chill!

Working on the go

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About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

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