Christopher Murphy tackles the tricky topic of task management in an increasingly busy age
Christopher Murphy tackles the tricky topic of task management in a busy age
As knowledge workers toiling at the digital coalface, we regularly find ourselves managing multiple tasks at once. All too often those tasks add up, rendering it hard to focus and get things done.
Establishing a task management – or to-do – system can make all the difference. Your system might be analogue or digital but, regardless, it’s important to have one.
One approach on the analogue side of the equation is the Bullet Journal ( bulletjournal.com), which bills itself as: “The analogue system for the digital age.” Ryder Carroll, creator of the Bullet Journal method, even has a book offering the tantalising prospect that you can “track the past, order the present and design the future”.
The Bullet Journal method is tailored around a system of bespoke bullets: points (‘.’) for to-dos; circles (‘o’) for events; dashes (‘–’) for notes; and so on. It might sound complicated but, like any system, it gets easier with practice. If you’ve been tracking to-dos via a notebook, it’s worth spending a little time exploring the methodology, which really can enhance your existing approach.
On the digital side of the equation, tools like Things ( culturedcode.com) offer a seamless, softwaredriven approach to the task of tackling tasks. A task manager for Apple devices, Things is designed to help you manage and achieve your goals, so you can organise all your to-dos in one place.
A beautifully designed suite of applications that won an Apple Design Award in 2017, Things makes tracking tasks enjoyable thanks to its delightful interactions. Even if you’re not bought in to Apple’s operating systems, Things is still worth exploring for its elegant user-experience design.
The myth of multitasking
Mapping out your multiple tasks is, of course, only half of the equation; the other is completing them, which is where focused single-tasking comes in.
Doubtless everyone’s heard of multitasking: the ability to undertake multiple tasks in tandem. The trouble is multitasking is a myth. Neuroscience has not only established that it is more stressful than undertaking tasks individually, it’s also less productive and technically not even possible.
As Cynthia Kubu and Andre Machado, two noted neuroscientists, explain in ‘Why Multitasking Is Bad for You’ ( bit.ly/multitaskingisbad): “One study found that just 2.5% of people are able to multitask effectively… repeatedly switching back and forth from project to project, like a hummingbird darting from flower to flower, can impair our ability to function at our finest”.
Kubu and Machado also note that “isolating out of the multitasking world” brings many benefits, stressing that we “unequivocally perform best, one thing at a time”.
What we think of as multitasking is, in fact, just the brain switching rapidly between tasks and doing so inefficiently. A far better approach is to sidestep multitasking and work your way through your to-do list a single task at a time.
Put together the two halves of the equation – a task management system, be it analogue, digital (or both); and a single-tasking mindset – and you will have a recipe for productivity success. To-do list, ticked off!
An award-winning task manager for Apple devices, Things helps you manage the contents of your to-do list and tick them off, one by one.