The rapid advancement of technology throughout the last few decades has led to huge leaps forward in our ability to collaborate, produce, and multitask in the workplace. However, with the influx of new technologies, we are now capable of multitasking even to our own detriment. When your focus is pulled in a hundred different directions by the dings and flashes from your cell phone, your tablet, your desktop, etc. it becomes impossible to fully focus on the task (or tasks) at hand. There is always something vying for your attention, and what begins as an easy way to streamline work and get more done at once quickly becomes a confusing mess of tasks and programs to keep track of. It’s not all bad, though. By optimizing your technology and making the most of your multitasking capabilities, you can maximize the upside to getting it all done at once while minimizing the downside of the never-ending workflow.
Most people are guilty of it: you have multiple programs that all essentially do the same thing. Did you share those notes on Slack or Evernote? Did you send that message from your personal or your work email? When the time comes that you find yourself toggling between your phone’s Google calendar, your desktop’s Outlook calendar, and your work cell’s iCalendar, it’s easy to see how the relative convenience of these applications can become horribly complex.
To eliminate this problem, you need to consolidate as much as possible. Pick the platform that best fits your needs and stick to it. At most, you should only have separate calendars for work and personal events, but the easiest will be to have everything consolidated into one. This enables you to see your day at a glance, rather than having to check multiple calendars against one another before confirming a meeting. This principle can be applied across all your technologies. Wherever possible, consolidate down to just one email client, collaboration platform, and storage service. The simplicity will make your life feel less cluttered and enable you to multitask better by eliminating the need to sort through redundancies while you do it.
The ability to integrate services, devices, and platforms into one another is incredibly helpful when it comes to getting more done at once, and you should take full advantage of this to optimize your multitasking. Now that you’ve pared down to just one calendar, integrate it into as many of the services you use as possible, so that you can multitask seamlessly between whatever device or program you happen to be using at the time.
Integrate your calendar into Slack, set up your Dropbox account on your mobile and desktop devices, and wherever possible make sure that you have access to the programs that you need from anywhere you happen to be. This way, the next time you need to send an email confirming a meeting on your calendar while on a conference call, you can do it all from a single device.
Automation is where multitasking starts to get really cool. This is when the ingenuity of the new technology available to you is put into practice. Each of the individual programs you use probably has some form of automation built in – the ability to set calendar reminder notifications or email auto-responses, for instance. However, the practice of automation has become far more involved than even these handy individual features.
Services like If This, Then That (IFTTT.com) allow you to consolidate, integrate, and automate the various technologies in your life in a big way. From your car to your weather app, these user-friendly “applettes” allow you to automate your multitasking completely. You can mute your phone upon entering the office, send a text to your spouse when you leave, and have your garage door open when your car is in the driveway without even lifting a finger. Whether you use IFTTT or find other ways to automate your tech to best fit your individual needs, being able to automate your tasks will be the way that you turn the tables from having to multitask yourself to having multiple tasks complete themselves while you focus your attention on the areas that need it the most.
Your first step should be consolidating your technologies and streamlining as much as possible. Cut out redundant platforms and services and focus your attention on just those that you need. Next, integrate as many of them together as possible, so that you are able to multitask between them from any one of the devices that you use on a regular basis. Finally, stop spending mental energy trying to multitask and automate these optimized technologies to do the legwork for you. Multitasking doesn’t have to be a trial-by-fire splitting of your attention. With the capabilities we have today, it can instead mean getting to focus on just one thing at a time, while you’re still simultaneously “doing it all.”