How to Manage Multiple Deadlines All at Once: Best Practices for Multitasking

Almost regardless of the job position or your vocation, no doubt you’ve run across this phrase in some job post you’ve seen online or in a newspaper’s want-ad: “This position requires someone who is organized, able to prioritize and works well under pressure.”  Translated? You need to know how to multitask.

Multitasking has been around a long, long time.  But up until about 20 years ago, it wasn’t a word as much in usage.  Job agencies and human resources departments usually asked for people who were “multitalented,” “multi-purposed” or worked well under pressure and stress.  But today, you not only need to know how to multitask, but multitask proficiently and successfully. Hey, even super-heroin Black Widow tells Captain America this very thing in the super-hit film Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014).  And if the Black Widow says it’s so, it definitely is so!

Just What Is Multitasking and How Do You Do It?

What is multitasking?  Actually, we could better ask: What is not multitasking?  Cause most of us multitask every day, several times a day.  Here are a couple of examples.

When you’re driving a car, you multitask.  How? Well, by doing several things almost at the same time or in an overlapping manner.  You’re watching the highway in front of you as you drive and where you drive. But you are also intermittently looking at the traffic and roads to your left and right, periodically gazing in your rearview mirror and side mirror, gazing further up the highway to where the next signal or stop-sign will be, keeping your eyes open for pedestrians and vehicles nearest on your left and right, and occasionally checking your instrument panel for readings on gas consumption, travel, speed and how operating systems in your automobile are operating.  

For a prime example of mechanical multitasking, we need look no further than a pilot who flies a commercial airliner.  If you’ve ever seen an airplane’s instrument panel, you know he has rows and rows of critical instrument readings he has to scan in a continuous and rotational manner.  And all this, while constantly monitoring airplane speed, altitude, direction and the ever-changing weather in his flight path. Add to these multiple tasks his responsibility for several hundred passengers and the plane and everyone’s continual safety, you’ll get a really good idea what multitasking consists of.

In a nutshell, the definition of multitasking is the simultaneous execution of more than one program or task by a single computer.  But we’re talking people, so the better definition is the handling of more than one task at the same time by a single person.

In fact, I am multitasking this very moment while writing this blog post.  In the background, I have music playing by some dude named Brahms, I’m logged into LinkedIn and periodically checking messages there, I’m munching on a bowl of grapes, and I have received at least three phone calls from clients asking me questions that have absolutely nothing to do with the topic of multitasking.  All in all—and not to brag—a typical hour in my daily work schedule.

How to Train and Learn to Multitask Effectively

“Practice makes perfect” is a saying that’s been around for centuries, and it’s true.  It also applies to becoming a skillful multitasker. For preparation and self-training are everything.  What’s even better, it’s easy to do. Here are some examples or ideas how you can practice multitasking and train your mind to become quick, agile and proficient at it.  All these are things you can do at home or out and about:

  1.  Talk on the phone with a friend or relative while removing laundry from the dryer and folding it.
  2.  Text messages on your cell phone when you’re at the supermarket/
  3.  While watching television, with pen and paper write out 20 things you want to do on your next vacation, and why.
  4.  While exercising at home and especially while on your stairclimber, plug in your earbuds and listen to a motivational tape or some kind of instructional learning course.
  5.  When eating a meal, open up the dictionary and learn some new words and improve your vocabulary.  Start with these seven words closest in meaning to multitasking: balance, juggle, aggregate, syndicate, omni-purpose, multitalented, multipurpose.
  6.  At the dentist’s office or while waiting for a job interview or appointment with a friend, look around you and find multiple tasks to observe and cogitate at the same time.  How many people are in the dentist office? Find five things they all have in common. How many cars, SUVs, trucks and motorcycles are parked on the street outside? Use your imagination!
  7.  Go online and find a multitask training course and practice multitasking assessment testing.  These will get you multitasking in no time, and continually build your speed and proficiently at doing it.

How to Multitask Effectively and Best Practices for Multitasking

Your brain does not have to be like an Internet browser with 17 open tabs, downloading three MP5 files and uploading a dozen websites, while creating coding for an AI computer program—all at the same time! You can learn to type, answer phones and greet people simultaneously, and do so with panache and fluidity.  One way of learning to do all this is by visiting businesses and watching people who do it, who do it regularly, and seemingly do it with ease.

One such person is the checkout person at your local supermarket.  I know of no more public worker who demonstrates multitasking skills than the person who collects, scans, tabulates and often bags my groceries at every market I shop at and buy provisions.  These skilled laborers often stand on their feet for hours handling hundreds of customers, thousands of grocery items and a multitude of tasks—all while maintaining an unflinching smile and a pleasant demeanor.  Watch them! Observe them! And see how they do it!

In addition to this, also implement these good practices and important steps to learning to multitask, and do so at work or at home with proficiency and skill:

  1.  Train to multitask and go online or home to multitask-train.
  2.  Prioritize your tasks at work, and focus on these tasks in their order of priority.
  3.  Organize your thoughts, your emotions, your workspace, and your time.
  4.  Practice and learn to move back and forth between tasks, and do so in a consistent, smooth and relaxed manner.
  5.  Review each day’s job performance and strive always to improve, improve, improve!
  6.  Convert stress into challenge and achievement, and see these as fun and adventure!

Remember, no one owes you a job or a living.  Both are a blessing. Aptitude is important. But attitude is more important.  Dare to try, dare to do, dare to live and dare to grow and improve. When it comes to multitasking or anything in life, if other people can do it, so can you.  Likewise, if other people can learn to multitask with skill and success, so can you!