Choose the statement letter that most closely applies to you. Then scroll down to "results" to find out your multitasking type, learn how to make it work to your advantage and abolish the need for sticky notes ever again
1. When a colleague asks you how your day is going, you’ll typically respond
b.) “OK… I think”
c.) “Good, how’s yours?”
2. How do you generally feel when you’re at work?
a.) Valued and important
b.) Never quite on top of things
c.) Calm and in control
3. How would your colleagues describe you?
a.) The go-to person
b.) Slightly scatty or emotional
c.) Solid and stable
4. You believe that multitasking is
a.) One of your greatest strengths
b.) A necessary evil
c.) Something to be avoided
5. When someone asks you to take on extra work do you
a.) Agree – you’ll fit it in somehow
b.) Agree – you don’t want to look like you can’t cope
c.) Doublecheck your workload
6. When you don’t know how to do something you
a.) Try to work it out yourself from past experience
b.) Give it a shot – other people manage
c.) Get advice before you begin
7. How often do you check your phone/texts/emails?
a.) Intermittently throughout the day
b.) All the time, whatever you’re doing
c.) At set periods in between other tasks
8. How often do you delegate tasks?
a.) Never – it’s better and quicker to do it yourself
b.) Sometimes – you don’t need to do everything
c.) Often – it’s the quickest way
9. How invaluable do you think you are?
a.) You’re the backbone of the office
b.) You have definite strengths and weaknesses
c.) You’re a key part of the team
10. Your diary is
a.) Filled to the brim with appointments and detailed notes
b.) Something you only use sporadically
c.) Equally filled with appointments and free time
11. When you’re off work, you think
a.) “I hope they can cope without me.”
b.) “I hope I remembered to hand over everything.”
c.) “I hope everything goes well with the project.”
12. When you’ve got an urgent deadline you
a.) Are still caught up with can’t-miss meetings
b.) Suddenly remember something key you’ve missed
c.) Turn off your phone, go somewhere quiet and focus
13. Do you ever take work home with you?
a.) Yes – you’re happy to put in extra hours
b.) Sometimes – it’s your only chance to get it done
c.) Never – you’re rarely that behind
14. Your boss would like you to work on
a.) Training up staff
b.) Your organisation
c.) Managing other people
15. Your biggest work worry is
a.) Whether people have actually done what I asked them
b.) Missing something key
c.) Other people’s working methods
16. When you get a phone call you…
a.) Take it whatever you’re doing
b.) Take it, and keep writing emails
c.) Stop what you’re doing to take it
17. Do you find it hard to focus on one task?
a.) Sometimes, they’re all important
b.) Yes, you’re easily distracted
c.) No, you prefer to work that way
18. How often do you finish a deadline ahead of schedule?
19. What do you find most difficult at work?
a.) Finding a window
b.) Staying on top of things
c.) You find most things fairly easy
20. How well can you switch off from work?
a.) I don’t want to switch off
b.) It pops into your head sometimes
3.) Well – rest time is important
THE PROUD MULTITASKER
“Being busy gives you a sense of importance, and makes you feel valuable,” Dave Crenshaw says. “You struggle to delegate because you feel no-one will do the task as well, and aren’t willing to train anyone else, because you feel it would take too long. But freeing up your schedule to train someone will save you time in the future.” And as executive coach Ros Taylor suggests, you’ll benefit from occasionally saying no. “At work we want to be liked – but it’s not everything. Smile and refuse nicely, suggesting someone else who can help. By having gaps in your schedule, you’ll have time to deal with any unexpected problems.”
- Delegate tasks: training someone will result in time savings.
- Create schedule gaps: windows of 15 to 30 minutes between meetings will allow you time to do tasks so you don’t fall behind.
- Practise single focus: concentration is a mental muscle. Exercise it by making yourself stick to one task for 30 minutes.
THE ACCIDENTAL MULTITASKER
You don’t like multitasking, but think it’s the only way to cope with your workload. You won’t use technology in a productive way – you don’t use an online diary – but you are easily distracted. “Turn off message notifications, and put your phone on silent,” says Crenshaw. “Set a time to check and reply – even if it’s five minutes every hour this will be less expensive time-wise. And instead of allowing people just to come up to your desk, arrange one-on-one meetings for important questions.” You also need to shift – rather than split – your focus, as Taylor explains. “When you’re writing an email and a colleague comes over, give the person your full focus – it communicates that you’re in control.”
- Invest in a diary: set a goal of using it for a month – it only takes 21 days to form a habit.
- Have an e-blackout: set strict time periods when you can to check your phone and email. Set a response suggesting people call your landline if it’s urgent.
- Be present with people: don’t split your attention – it makes people feel devalued.
THE ZEN SINGLE TASKER
Congratulations – you’re a calm, focused single-tasker. “You know that by doing less at once you can get more done,” says Crenshaw. “You use a calendar but leave lots of space because you know interruptions happen. And because you give tasks your full focus you typically underspend time, you miss out on any last-minute stress.” While your approach is the healthiest and most productive, Crenshaw suggests building in ‘background tasking’ to maximise your efforts. “Set off a print run while you answer your emails. This boosts efficiency without any cost to your work or your health.”
- Feel free to work alone: if you have an important task that needs completing quickly, set aside your allotted time and find a quiet corner with zero distractions.
- Do background tasking: combine an activity that requires your attention with one that doesn’t.
- Share your skills: colleagues who aren’t organised can impact on you. Share your strategies.