As a contractor you’re likely to be working on many projects together simultaneously. You might have five to ten clients with various projects at different stages. But, is it better to focus on one project at a time or multitask? Well, the verdict is in about multitasking: study after study shows that people who think they are good at multitasking really aren’t.
Which Is More Efficient – Single Focus vs Multitasking?
Now, before you admonish your organizational skills and your multitasking mastery, let’s take a different approach. Let’s pretend for the sake or argument that you are NOT a part of the 2% of the population who is actually proficient at multitasking. Cool? Ok.
Let’s consider a different question:
How do I handle multiple projects by multiple clients in an efficient manner?
A. Set Up a Workable System
You’re going to need a project management system of some kind, whether it’s a series of Excel spreadsheets and file folders on your computer or whether you invest in a system like Basecamp or Asana.
B. Create a Work Schedule
Based on deadlines that your clients give you for projects, work your way back to the date each project was assigned. Give yourself enough time to focus on each task needed to complete the project on time, including a built-in buffer for things to go wrong.
C. Use a Calendar
Google has an excellent online calendar that will send you reminders and notifications. Some project management apps have calendars as well. Whichever type of calendar you use, it’s imperative that you use one that is easy to look at so you know what’s coming up and what needs to be done today. On Google Calendar you can give each client their own color to code it.
D. Create Ordered Systems For Each Project Type
Sometimes getting started is the hardest part. If you have a system in place where you know that when you do something you start at step one, that will make it easier for you. For example, let’s say you have been hired to create a 10-part email marketing series for product X. The first thing you have to do is outline the series. The next time is to write or assign the writing of the series, then edit, then format, then load into and schedule the messages.
E. Work One Step at a Time
Work out which parts of a project you need to do, and what order projects need to be done in order to assign deadlines to others appropriately, and to yourself in the right order When you figure this out, you’ll be able to do one thing at a time toward completion of the project in an organized way.
F. Work on One Client’s Work at a Time
It can be very confusing to try to work for multiple clients at once, and the best way to avoid issues is to only work on each client’s work one at a time. For instance, don’t try to batch upload articles for multiple clients to email autoresponders. Can you imagine how easily this could get screwed up? This could be disastrous! Concentrate on just one client at a time and you’ll be able to focus better and avoid mistakes.
G. Know Your Internal Clock and Best Times to Work
Know yourself enough to know when you work best and do certain tasks best. If you are better at writing in the evening, schedule your evenings for writing. Then you can post the articles the following morning when you need less mind power.
When you’re working independently on projects, do not try to adapt your schedule to how you think other people work. Contractors have 24 hours in a day just like everyone else, and if you get your best work done after midnight when your house is quiet and you’re rested from a nap, have at it.
Did you notice how specific I was in that last paragraph? You might’ve guessed, my midnight after nap example is all about me and my schedule right now. Subject to change when my body clock changes!
H. Learn the Tools of the Trade
When you pick tools and software to use, such as Trello or Aweber, learn everything you can about the software so that you can be of most use to your clients and stay organized for yourself.
I. Start and End Each Day with the Schedule
If you start and end your day getting focused by looking at your calendar and task list, you will be less likely to miss something. Schedule periodic check-in breaks with yourself to ensure you’re staying on task. Hello distracting Facebook videos and Twitter notifications!
Looking at the schedule throughout the day helps you concentrate on the tasks at hand. End each day by checking off what tasks got done and which need to be worked on the next day. Create the next day’s schedule in advance, and you’ll hit the ground running tomorrow!
So, this is the long answer to,
“Which is more efficient – concentrating on a single project or multitasking?”
Do one task at a time, one project at a time, one client at a time.
We all do some measure of activity that we think is multitasking, but if you really think about it, you’re not actually multitasking unless one of those tasks is something you can do on automatic, like typing and composing an email. The typing is automatic, but the email crafting is something you have to think about. You can’t write an intelligent email and talk on the phone at the same time, for instance.