How to Multitask the Right Way

As a college student you may find it hard to juggle taking care of your children, working a job (or two), and managing your household.  How do you fit in your schoolwork? The ugly truth is that people have a lot on their plate these days. Many students started college to make a better life for themselves and their families through education. You know why you decided to pursue a college degree, but how do you get to graduation while juggling a million things at once? One way is to become a better multitasker and learn how to multitask the right way!

Like many things, there is a time and place for multitasking. For instance, it is a bad idea to multitask by driving your car and texting; or running through the grocery list in your head while interviewing for your dream job. 

tips-for-multi-taskingThink about this.  Have you ever been submitting a paper for class, in addition to chatting with a friend or family member and catching up on the evening news?  You type in some words about the assignment in the text box and confidently hit submit.  Seconds later you realize, “Oops! I forgot to add the attachment!”  If you can relate to this, you have been a victim of poor multitasking.

Multitasking actually requires you to shift your focus back and forth and is often not the act of focusing on two different things at the same time.  According to Leaney in Age of the Plodder Begins, you can actually lose IQ points when multitasking.  This is one good reason it can be more beneficial to allow yourself complete focus for intense or complex tasks. 

The first step to multitasking is to determine the items on your to-do list which you want to multitask.  To do this, compile a list of things that must be accomplished for the week (or day) and organize them in order of importance.  Highlight the items which you think you would NOT want to multitask and would require your full attention and mental focus. 

Skip the items you highlighted and pair together the other items on the list such as doing laundry and preparing dinner. For the things you can multitask, make spare minutes count!  I highly suggest carrying note cards or class notes with you.  That way, when you have downtime at lunch, or even time to spare while waiting for you kids to be done with school, you have the ability to study and make the most out of those precious minutes. 

Multitasking with activities that take minimal critical thinking skills will allow you more time to focus on things which do require your full attention such as attending your child’s class play or studying for assignments and tests. 

For these important responsibilities, think about making a schedule and not a to-do list.  Work through the highlighted items one at a time and allow yourself the time and space to concentrate.  Yes, to fully devote attention could mean turning off your cell phone and your television.  Full concentration without disruption can actually save you time.  Think about how quickly you get your assignments done when the television is off versus on.

A quick way to cut down on the amount of time you spend doing homework is to allow yourself focused attention to complete the tasks more quickly. This will also allow you to retain more information for future use (Haskins, 2010). 

Get more done with less time, and then move on to the plethora of other tasks on your list which you could do with your eyes closed.

 

References:

Haskins, C. (2010). Integrating Silence Practices Into the Classroom: The Value of Quiet. Encounter, 23(3), 15-26.

Leaney, N. (2009). Age of the Plodder Begins. Community Care, 1797, 8-8.


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This article was written by Cassandra Campfield, Academic Advisor for Rasmussen College. In this role, she assists students seeking online degrees with academic services to help students succeed. Cassandra has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from University of Wisconsin – LaCrosse and a Master’s degree in College Counseling & Student Development and Community Counseling from St. Cloud State.

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