Multitasking is becoming one of those essential skills employers look for on a resume, but it’s a misleading term. While technically, it means doing more than one thing at the same time, what you’re really saying when you list multitasking as a skill is that you’re organized enough to keep track of more than one thing at the same time.
Nobody can really do two things at the exact same time and give each thing enough attention to do a superior job, but if you’re organized, you can manage more than one thing at a time which leads to not only meeting deadlines, but delivering quality materials. So, ultimately, the skill to hone for better success is organization.
How to stay organized
First you have to decide your method for organization - where will all your responsibilities, appointments, and action items live? For some, everything goes into an app, others use spreadsheets like they’re going out of style, and one can’t ignore the benefits of having a physical organizer. Regardless of medium, it’s essential to write everything down somewhere.
Once you’ve selected your medium for keeping track (or mediums) you need to come up with a plan for how you enter in specific types of information. You want to be able to review your daily list of items quickly and easily, so appointments might be written in differently than to-do items or simple reminders. Be consistent in your organization to ensure you stay on top of everything.
Don’t be afraid of being redundant. It’s okay to write the same thing down in more than one place if it will help you remember to do that thing. I’m always worried about being late to appointments, but by having both a virtual calendar and written appointment reminders, I make it where I need to be when I need to be there. I’ve found the more times I write something down, the more likely I am to remember it on my own.
How I stay organized
I am not a one-medium woman when it comes to organization. I use everything I can to keep track of both personal and professional items in order to stay on top of projects, appointments, events, and deadlines. Working like this enables me to plan out my responsibilities in a way that decreases my stress levels and typically allows me to deliver content a day or more before deadline. Here’s what I most often use:
- Physical Organizer - for my day-to-day action items, I use a planner with a weekly layout where I can write everything down. I also add appointments in here for a second look.
- Digital Calendar - all meetings, events, and appointments go in here. I like that I can enter in items quickly, easily, and go as far in advance as I need to. It’s also easy to put in a reoccurring event. The reminders that pop up on my phone and computer are helpful as well.
- Spreadsheets - these come in handy when tracking something over time that gets done in stages. For me, each writing assignment I receive as a freelance content creator goes into a spreadsheet along with the rate and the due date. I track time in this spreadsheet as well as when a draft has been submitted and when an item is final. I also use this spreadsheet to note when I send an invoice and when I get paid. This allows me to have more than one open project at a time since I always have a quick way to check in on assignments.
- Bulleted Lists - while this is a great way to stay organized in the short term, it’s something you'd only want to use where you’re crossing things off a list constantly. I currently use this as a way to stay on top of a monthly communications plan I create and manage for my son’s preschool. I know to review it each day and can quickly take care of any necessary action items before moving on to more time-consuming needs.
Your value as an employee whether you work full-time, part-time, or freelance is in your ability to complete projects to the specifications provided on time. You also need to be an efficient worker, willing to do more rather than less to stand out. Being organized enough to take on more than one thing at a time illustrates all the above skills and makes you a true multitasker in today’s professional environment.