The do’s and don’ts of multitasking

Courtesy of Flickr
Courtesy of Flickr

As you’re rushing out the door in a frenzy with a banana drooping down your mouth, clutching a Starbucks in one hand and clasping your backpack in another, you come to the revelation that you forgot to do that essay prompt for English 1B — that A never seemed more distant. Failing to multitask and prioritize is an epidemic that sweeps through college students and often plagues them from handling everything they need to in a timely and effective manner. When people think about multitasking, they can only conjure up abstract and vague ways of staying organized, considering the plethora of methods you can turn to. It’s important that you cultivate your skills in multitasking in college because the world outside of college is a dog-eat-dog world, and responsibility will be key.

To learn how to multitask, it’s important to break down the concept and analyze its meaning. Multitasking is the process of doing more than one activity at once, keeping an equal amount of focus and concentration on each thing. People may overestimate their multitasking abilities, failing to see that their performance actually drops while trying to focus on two things simultaneously. It’s not something you can do without disciplining and conditioning your brain to separate tasks and distinguish them as different entities. All useful tasks and habits take time to develop and form, and this is no exception.

Planning in advance

We multitask to improve productivity, but are we really being more efficient? A sure method to work harder and smarter is to define your tasks in advance in a handy notebook. This to-do list may just become the best friend to that expert multitasker within you. Try breaking up your responsibilities into many smaller tasks when listing them. This way, you feel more motivated to complete the duties and much more satisfied seeing a long column of items crossed off. “I honestly thought I was a novice at multitasking, until I actually researched what it actually was and was shocked. When trying to (multitask) I make sure I limit it to two small activities so I’m not overwhelmed,” Selena Arquette, third-year anthropology major proclaims.

Establish a plan and set goals so you don’t get carried away with attempting to do more than you can handle. When listing assignments on your to-do list, recognize when deadlines for each responsibility are. Students may complete an essay due the next week, a reading due a couple days later and notes for a cancelled class, but forget to complete a lab due that night at 11:59 a.m. Keep in mind that not all tasks have the same deadlines — in other words, prioritize your tasks!

Keeping life balanced

“Balancing schoolwork and a job is just too easy!” said no one ever. If only there was one straightforward strategy to tackling this common struggle among college students. Still, we can adhere to first-year political science major Elias Velasco’s advice: “School always comes first and it’s fine to ask for less hours from work, your boss will understand.” The goal is to not overestimate yourself as you may find that you can’t actually manage a large workload. If you are aware that you must leave to work in three hours, set a goal to complete certain school assignments before then. Prepare for any responsibilities you may have for both school and work by prioritizing what is most important to you.

Coordinate your relaxation

The last component to multitasking is making sure that the things you are doing coordinate with each other. If not, it’s going to make it extremely complicated to allocate your time to just one action. Make sure the two have some type of connection so it’ll actually become a supplement, and not inhibit your work. For example, if you’re doing something writing-related, play some soothing music that’ll take the mundane aspect out of doing work. Or when doing reading assignments, try to coordinate it with a writing assignment since both involve vocabulary and reading comprehension.

As college students, we oftentimes find ourselves swamped with unexpected stashes of work piled upon more work. We all get caught off-guard with our responsibilities every once in a while — or almost all of the time if you are anything like us — but we can better develop our multitasking abilities if we learn to work at a pace that is appropriate for ourselves. Most importantly, don’t forget to have some time to yourself as well. Multitasking is made much more difficult when you haven’t had time to relax and rest. If possible, try to develop a schedule, so you don’t clump everything into the same time frame. Only multitask when you find it absolutely necessary. To limit the urge to multitask, try to follow a comprehensive schedule that breaks down into smaller tasks so you’ll always be informed.

Conclusion

The key to multitasking is doing it in moderation. People who constantly do it in strides are those who suffer from poor grades because they don’t know how to do it correctly. If you want to get better, you must be willing to work your way up to that level incrementally by first handling smaller tasks, and then gradually moving up to more difficult ones. If you’re someone who’s commonly pressed for time, you’ll more than likely become keen on multitasking compared to those who have more free time. You don’t have to let time overwhelm you and drag you through the mud as you violently fight to resist its forces. Make sure you never underestimate time, because no matter how harmless it may seem, it’s the number-one reason why people end up multitasking and struggle to maintain order. Learning how to gauge time is one of the most important skills you’ll be able to take away from college. Prioritizing should become second nature so you’ll have control over your life and those monotonous, but often burdening, smaller tasks.

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