Confessions of a failed multitasker
I suck at managing multiple tasks at once which is something that I need to force myself to be better at as it’s starting to affect my life more than it ever has.
Both in personal life and work, I struggle with managing multiple tasks at once. I’m forgetful, I prioritise the wrong tasks and I’m a chief procrastinator of what’s important.
I wanted to write something, probably to benefit myself, maybe as something to refer back to in the future and hopefully to allow others to know that someone else out there has the same struggles.
I’m making some changes in my day-to-day to try and combat this and figured it might be useful for others to look at. I’m also hoping that by putting this out there, someone might come in like a knight in shining armour and give be a solution to all my problems (I don’t think there is a solution)
Change No. 1 - Write everything down, even if it doesn’t matter right now.
This is something I am making a conscious effort to do, even if it doesn’t feel useful in the moment, it’s definitely useful once I have forgotten about it. This means:
- Writing meeting notes even if they feel irrelevant
- Jotting down a fix that I have come across that I’d like to remember
- Taking note of what I did before a weekend so that I can update the team in our Monday Standup
Basically something that everyone already does, but doesn’t come naturally to me. I use Bear notes for this with a custom Apple Shortcut which maps a hotkey on my machine. Heavily inspired by this post from Sam Rose
I also set up another hotkey which will open up a voice prompt on my Mac to allow me to speak todo’s into my todo app. This one is killer as sometimes I feel I don’t have time to think about what I want to write, I just need to get the information somewhere it won’t be forgotten.
Change No. 2 - Have a todo list which bugs the hell out of me.
I’ve used pretty much every quick fix app out there to “streamline” my day. But the thing that I have found most useful is having something that constantly prods me, reminding me of what needs to be done. I find that if I write something down that’s deemed as a “todo” it’ll be forgotten about pretty quickly. Not forgotten entirely, but kinda de-prioritised as I’m not needed to be reminded of it.
Having a reminder scheduled on a todo has really helped. I use an app called TickTick which allows me to actually set priorities on tasks and they get colour-coded and ordered in the TickTick app. Usually if something is red (highest priority) it bugs me to get it done. If it needs to be done at a certain time, I attach a date to it and set the reminders to remind me every day for a week that this thing needs to be done.
I sometimes set reminders on low priority tasks, just to remind myself that this thing is still needing to be done. Something like hanging up a picture or doing some DIY. I don’t want to forget about it by letting it slip into the void, but I also don’t need to prioritise it over something more urgent.
I have recently started to tag some of my todo’s as “spinning” (as in spinning plates), which lets me distinguish my everyday todo’s from tasks that I am actively working on and need to follow up. This is mainly for work tasks, ones that might not contribute to my daily work, but that I am still responsible for and need to chase up.
Unconventionally, I don’t usually separate my work and personal tasks as I just see it as a change of flow which will be forgotten about. For instance switching between a work view and a personal view will allow me to forget about the latter. I need it to be in my face at all times.
Change No. 3 - Take time for myself to do a braindump
When things get a bit overwhelming, it’s easy to get lost in your thoughts. I find some time for myself a dump everything into my note apps.
If I have a thought, as small as it may be, I write it down to remove some headspace and allow me to focus on a single thing at a time. Often I’m holding onto something in my head which isn’t that important, but is blocking me from thinking about something useful.
Having a brain dump is essential to me, I should probably bump it further up this list.
Change No. 4 - Making it as frictionless as possible
I’ve touched on this in some of the examples above, but it’s really important to me to make the process as streamlined as possible, as if there’s any friction, I won’t use it. This includes the likes of:
- Windows opening on startup
- Widgets from my phone lock screen
Most of these are working for now, I think what’s important is sticking with something long enough for it to feel natural.
I’ve come to realise that my brain is not wired up efficiently enough to rely on it for storing multiple streams of thoughts, so I’m delegating it to something else.
Mentally I feel better, but I often have to remind myself to do something like a brain dump. When you’re in the throes of an overload, sometimes it’s difficult to take a step back and find your bearings again.
I hope one day I can look back at this and laugh at how silly I was!
Let me know your thoughts (no pun intended)
Feel free to reach out, I’d love to hear about whether you’ve had the same struggles and how you overcame them! You can find my contact info here on my site!