This article was originally published on APM.
Do you feel overwhelmed by the number or variety of projects that you’re handling simultaneously? Many professionals welcome the opportunity to take on different roles and responsibilities, or to deal with several clients or campaigns at the same time – there’s no better way to avoid boredom. But just as juggling balls in the air requires coordination and dexterity, it also takes a certain skill-set to get things done while juggling in a metaphorical sense. Here are my top tips:
Resist the urge to multi-task
While listening to a conference call about one project, are you tempted to check your email, scroll through social media, or jot down notes about something totally unrelated. Or do you keep several screens open on your laptop, switching from one document or spreadsheet to another?
Contrary to some perceptions, multi-tasking can damage productivity rather than enhance it. Indeed, research shows that only two per cent of the population can do it successfully. According to neuroscientists the brains of ‘supertaskers’ become more active as they take on more tasks but for the vast majority of us, no amount of practice enables us to perform in these conditions. Furthermore, repeatedly shifting attention is exhausting because it takes time and energy to focus.
Declutter your diary
Multiple projects can entail a deluge of demands on your energy and creativity. They can also lead to an inordinate amount of ‘time clutter’ – appointments, meetings, deadlines, etc.
The key to getting things done efficiently and effectively is to review your schedule, to let go of surplus commitments and to focus on what matters most. You may have heard the expression ‘When everything is important, nothing is.’ It’s particularly relevant to being productive. Learning to plan and prioritise is paramount. And if there’s too much on your to-do list, decide what you can either discard or delegate.
Aim for progress, not perfection
Over the years, I’ve identified perfectionism as one of the most common challenges for anyone who struggles with time management. Are you putting yourself under pressure because you’re not only trying to complete several projects but you’re also endeavouring to do them all perfectly? If you’re aiming for impossibly high standards, it’s worth asking yourself this simple question: why aim for perfect when excellent will do? Another antidote to perfectionism is to distinguish between when 100 per cent is required and when it isn’t. More often than not, you’re likely to find that the projects you’re juggling don’t need to be perfect; they just need to be done.
There’s no question that taking on several projects can prove testing but if you enjoy a challenge, the rewards can be immense. In fact, once you become accustomed to managing different teams, topics and tasks, you may never wish to handle just one project at a time.