Are you a multi-tasker?

February 25th, 2009 • Kate

I read fellow Colorado literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog post the other day about the Zero Inbox, and though I could manage to pat myself on a back a bit for usually keeping my inbox down to a manageable level — I only leave messages in it that I have yet to act on, and try to keep those to a minimum — the truth is I see this as part and parcel of one of the problems in multitasking.
At any one time, I have my inbox open on my computer, my google reader streaming in new blog posts to look at, my facebook page feeding me my friends’ status updates, my calendar beeping to tell me about an upcoming event I’ve scheduled, and my instant messenger pinging at me with tells from friends and clients. There’s a lot going on. And offline, I’ve got client manuscripts, partials, and requested fulls on my kindle, begging to be read and commented on.
As Rexroth, who teaches a class in productivity in the workplace, writes “Multitasking is the art avoiding TWO things you don’t want to do, by doing them both at the same time.” He also reminds me, “work stress doesn’t come from lots of things that need doing: it comes from things you’ve started and haven’t had time to finish.”
To that end, I’m taking this morning to write a few blog posts for the week and schedule them in advance — you’ll see this post on Wednesday, for instance, though I’m writing it Monday morning. With that done, I can spend most of the week tackling the growing flurry of queries I’ve received, and reading and getting back to authors on partials or full manuscripts — including my own clients’ work, which gets special attention.
I know I have a hard time getting anything done when I’m thinking about other things that need doing, so I’m hoping to tackle them one at a time and feel better about my progress. How do you handle a pile of work? Are you a multitasker, or a one-thing-at-a-time-until-it’s-done kind of person?

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7 Responses to “Are you a multi-tasker?”

  1. Carrie Harris Says:

    I'm one of those put-out-the-fire multitaskers. I always intend to be on the ball and get things done early, but then something else pops up that I DIDN'T get done early and ruins it. So then, by the time I get back to the thing that I intended to do early, it's late.
    Which essentially boils down to me running around, trying to put out about a hundred little brushfires at once. But I'm one of those people who isn't happy unless I'm insanely busy, so it all works out in the end.
    Oh, and Rexroth? He's a genius.

  2. lotusloquax Says:

    I like one thing at a time, but I'm getting better at multi-tasking a little–as long as I don't have too many windows open or kids running in to interrupt me…

  3. kimkasch Says:

    I used to be a HUGE multi-tasker, with a full time job, pets, and 3 kids who all played sports, were in drama/choir and played musical instruments. I became convinced that MOM title should be flipped upside down: WOW, is what people should say when they walk into a room.

  4. Jamie Harrington Says:

    See! This stresses me out that people say multitaksing isn't effective… it's the only way to get anything done. My key to multitasking… two computer monitors…seriously… you will never go back!
    I am the kind of person though that gets bored doing one thing for too long… so doing it all at once makes it more like a roller coaster! I like roller coasters.

  5. jeanoram Says:

    It depends. When it comes to blog posting for my new blog, it is faster to do the week's worth all at once. (It's an activity of the day blog for kids.) Otherwise, I tend to do it as inspiration hits. Somethings I need breaks from, some things I need to build up steam and go for it.

  6. Kiersten White Says:

    There are some things I can multitask, but when it comes to writing I can only focus on one project at a time. And when I'm in the middle of something I can't even read.

  7. Fie Eoin Says:

    I'm a multitasker, completely. I never have just one book in the works, I never have one thing on my hotplate at work, I'm always running around like a madwoman or someone with severe ADHD. My priorities change every five minutes, depending on what just happened to the radioactive sample in my work space or the characters in my head.
    And I agree with Carrie, Rexroth is a genius.