My Agile Life: Multitasking. Sort Of.

(This column is posted at, Steve’s LinkedIn, and Steve’s Tumblr)

More on my use of “Agile” and Scrum in my life!

Agile methods tend to discourage multitasking as well as having a lot on your plate.  The goal is to avoid distractions (with less multitasking) and avoid having a lot on your mind (by limiting work in progress).  Of course, as we always get interrupted, we tend to multitask a bit.  Sometime things almost have to be done together or require such long delays (like a chat) that multitasking is almost needed.

Let me note that I do think you should avoid multitasking.  I do believe in limiting work in progress.  But there are times multitasking is fine or even good.

What I’ve found that in my own life, what helps is to identify what you can do while doing other things.  Preemptive multitasking as it were.

You know what I mean:

  • You’d like to watch some tv, but friends want to chat online – you can do both.
  • You’d like to come up with a shopping list which you can do while watching tv as it’s not a rush.
  • You want to do some online research, so you do it while chatting or on the phone – heck, the other person may have ideas.
  • And so on . . .

You’ll note a lot of this is recreational/social.  This is where I often multitask when doing things that are “gruntwork-like.” Not something requiring intense effort, nor intense focus, but things that have a lot of “bite sized” tasks so I can watch TV or chat to take the edge off.  Sometimes it even helps to have others around.

This has helped me timeshift a lot lately, as well as get more done.  Yes, it’s multitasking, but only when appropriate.

As  a note I will be the first to say that you should avoid multitasking when it reduces your ability to focus, get things done, or do them your best.  I usually do it when the multitasking is something more fun, or social, and so on.  Be careful when you do this until you learn what works for you.

However, if you make multitasking conscious, you can do it right.  You can also choose when not to do it because you’re more aware.

(By the way I do plenty of books for coaching people to improve in various areas, which may also help you out!)

– Steve