We all want to be more efficient. This could be at work, at home, or anywhere really.   Usually, people start multitasking to make the most of their time. However, not everyone is an expert multitasker. Multitasking is not just about working harder, but working smarter. Use these tips to be the most productive you that you can be.

Multitasking Can Improve Productivity

Define the Tasks in Advance

Don’t wait until you are already in the middle of the first task to decide what else you want to accomplish. Have a plan and set goals. It is easy to get carried away with multitasking and turn it into doing as many things as possible. The key to being efficient is deciding on a distinct set of tasks that you are going to complete and stick to them.  If you think of additional related tasks put them on a new list for next time.

Group Together Compatible Tasks

When multitasking, it is smart to pick tasks that can genuinely be worked on at the same time. Some tasks simply are not compatible with each other. It may be as obvious as knowing you cannot talk with two people on the phone at the same time. There may also be times that this is less obvious. For example, if you know you are going to need to answer phone calls at random intervals, you have to choose another task that can be interrupted at any time. It also inefficient to try to read a document while listening to a book on tape. Instead, you might try mixing a mental task with a physical task. It is relatively easy to talk on the phone while you are folding clothes, for example.

Make Use of Downtime

Multitasking does not have to involve doing two major tasks at the same time. Instead, it is sometimes better to stick to one major project and then have a number of smaller tasks. Any time you find yourself waiting for something for the larger project, you can fill that time by working on one of the smaller tasks. By doing so, you will virtually eliminate time that is lost waiting, and your productivity will see a big increase. Taking a trip to the doctor? Feel free to work on something simple in the waiting room. Have a plastic bag that contains forms that need to be filled out.  One smart tip is to bring note cards and a pen with you at all times. You might be surprised what great ideas or solutions you think of while sitting around waiting.

Recognize What Can and Can’t be Multitasked

Sometimes you just have to admit that a task or project requires your complete attention. Once you start doing a lot of multitasking, it can be hard to recognize that there are some things that do not work well with multitasking. Occasionally, a task will be like operating heavy machinery, meaning you just have to focus on it and get it done.

Plan Ahead and Use a To-Do List

Multitasking can sometimes make it harder to see the big picture, so it is essential to remember what needs done and when. Not everything you are working on at a given time will have the same deadline. Even if multitasking makes you more efficient, it is little consolation if you forget that you had to pick up your kids from class.  Don’t let your newfound productivity trick you into becoming lazy about using your to-do list and a calendar.

Using the strategies above and avoiding the traps that new multitaskers fall for can help you boost your efficiency by a significant margin. Don’t just multitask; multitask smarter.