I was having a conversation with my sister recently about her new job application, and I noticed one of the required qualification criteria “candidates should have strong multitasking skills”. Is this really of benefit for a tech company? Or is it just a misinterpretation?
Multitasking in my head is simply like using all 4 burners on your stove at the same time. One for boiling pasta, one for cooking a sauce, one for the topping and the other one for frying a nugget. This is all done towards one goal…breakfast!
Multitasking, as a term, originally comes from computer literature. Quoted from Wikipedia:
Multitasking is a concept of performing multiple tasks (also known as processes) over a certain period of time by executing them concurrently.
OK, stop right there. You are not a computer. Your brain and body are not powerful enough to execute many tasks at the same time. You will need more than two hands to execute the entire task. This is where multitasking becomes misunderstood for most people: how can I write two different pieces of code for two different projects at the same time? Literally, that’s not multitasking, it’s simply task-switching.
Task-switching is not a good thing in my industry. When you are building a technology-based product, it can be hard to control your focus and goal. Some studies show it takes about 10-25 minutes to get back into things after you’ve been interrupted. What are the results? Your stress level increases and the task (or tasks) become disorganized.
The ideal workflow is working on one project per day or at the very least finishing one task before you start another one. But we cannot always do it that way, sometimes you can’t avoid jumping to another issue that’s urgently needed. Here some tips to keep your focus while you are in “task-switching mode”:
Write everything you did, or even thought, down on a paper. Yeah, old-fashioned paper! I find that writing it using handwriting means its more deeply stored in your brain.
Keep a work log
I used to be a lazy person when it comes to logging work-time until I found the essential benefit of it. It’s more than just a way to calculate how long the project takes, but it also helps you to get back to what you did when you last worked on the task.
Ask for more time
If you are in the middle of something and it’s really close to finishing, ask your boss/coworker for more time to finish that task before moving to another one.
From personal experience, I would strongly recommend you to avoid task switching as much as possible. I know its not an easy thing to do when you have many projects to work on at the same time. But once you can handle that trust me, your life will be easier.