Avoid Multitasking Madness

Tanvier Lee says she moved from Washington, D.C., to New York City in early 2008 with high hopes. Leaving behind her job as a financial adviser, Lee looked to start an interior design company. It wasn’t long before she found herself overwhelmed.

Admittedly, she says New York City can be overwhelming by itself, but coupled with the added responsibilities in starting a new venture, the then-23-year-old Lee was quickly juggling more than she was used to. In order to pay her bills, Lee worked full-time as a kitchen and bath designer. Simultaneously, she functioned as an entrepreneur: Trying to bid on design contracts, market her services on several online job boards, and attend industry events.
“I was just too bogged down with working a nine-to-six and heading into the city to meet with prospective clients,” says Lee, who also volunteered weekly at the Junior League of New York City (www.nyjl.org). “It was a lot.” And although she felt drained, Lee says she pushed herself because she felt she needed to keep it all together–a common rationale. We often feel there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish tasks of work, home, and extracurricular.

However, Peggy Duncan, a time management and productivity expert and author of the book, The Time Management Memory Jogger (GOAL/QPC Inc; $12.95), says this unwillingness to stop may be one of the biggest reasons why we struggle.

“You have to stop long enough to figure out the best way to do things,” says Duncan. “Look at what’s on your plate and prioritize. Be selfish right now and focus on yourself. If you don’t, you won’t be a good parent, boss, or employee. If you feel like you’re getting overwhelmed, something has to go.”

After months of living out a frenzied schedule, Lee quit her full-time job, giving full attention to launching her design firm and creating a balanced, less besieged life.

Miss Manage
Time management and productivity expert Peggy Duncan helps clients get on track to effectively manage their responsibilities and lives. Here she offers these three helpful tips:

Get organized. If your eyes always see a mess, your mind becomes a mess. Get organized so you can think better. Even if it takes you two or three weekends, take the time to put your workspace in order. That goes for your time and calendar as well. Keep a time log so you can figure out how you’re spending your time.

Focus yourself and your efforts. Multitasking doesn’t work, so prioritize. What activities can you eliminate? What things can you put on hold while you sort yourself out? When you’re doing work that requires you to think, you can’t afford to multitask. Ignore the phone. Hide yourself until it’s done.

Barter when possible. You’ll either spend your time or your dime to get certain things done. When there is work you must do that requires expertise you don’t have, consider bartering a service you can perform in exchange for the expertise you need.

This article originally appeared in the February 2010 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.