I've always prided myself on being a master multitasker. Over the years I've gotten pretty good at juggling my marriage, kids, job, and house, and so I wanted to share my finely honed skills. I also wanted to see what the experts had to say about how much time people save by tackling multiple things at once.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that studies show multitasking actually lowers productivity by as much as 40 percent! Could it be that the methods I'd been using to save time had been backfiring?
Upon further investigation, I realized that what I've been referring to as multitasking actually isn't multitasking at all. According to PsychologyToday.com, what I've been doing is serial tasking—the art of switching back and forth from one task to another so quickly that I feel like I'm doing them simultaneously. Test drive my three favorite serial tasking techniques and see if they don't save you a significant chunk of time.
1. Clean machine. When I take my car to the carwash, I organize my purse and wallet while I wait. I also use that time to write and address birthday cards. The carwash I go to has a great selection, and I keep a book of stamps in my wallet. I save about half an hour each time I get my car washed.
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2. Dirty laundry. I throw a load of laundry in the washer before I take the kids to school. When I get back, I throw that load into the dryer and the next load into the washer. While the machines do their job, I do mine. I update my to-do list, outline articles, and return phone calls. The dryer buzzer alerts me that it's time to check my email. This built-in structure makes me more focused and productive, and saves me about an hour a day.
3. Office hours. Whenever I was made to wait longer than 20 minutes at a doctor's office, I used to complain that he or she was wasting my time. Now I turn the doctor's office into my own by bringing my laptop with me. I can read and respond to emails, update my iCal—even order gifts online. Time saved? It varies depending on the doctor's schedule. Time wasted? None.