Multitasking or one Project at a Time?

Rub your belly and head in opposing directions all day! That’s multitasking.

If, like me you are a freelancer, you’re likely to be working on many projects together simultaneously. You might have five to ten clients with various projects at differing stages. So, 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.

The real question should be:

How do I handle multiple projects by multiple clients in an efficient manner?

A typical weekly client request list for me on a Monday morning is:

  •  We need a series of auto-responders to be ready by…
  •  Here are my expenses for last week ~ can they be ready by…
  •  This is the document I want you to type and reformat ~ can it be ready tomorrow?
  •  My invoices for last month… no hurry, I just need them by the end of the month
  •  I want to start promoting my xxx … on social media tomorrow, we’ll need images! and here’s the link.
  •  Can you set up my xxx by Friday?
  •  I’d love to have images for xx promotion by Thursday ~ can you help?
  •  A change re: next weeks meeting, can you let everyone know and do the necessary?

And that’s without my regular daily Client work.

Do I panic?…… No, I’m an organised Virtual Assistant. 

Here are my answer and how I handle multiple clients’ with differing projects.

* 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.com.

* 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. Yes, things can and do go wrong. A client doesn’t know or need to know that you have two deadlines on Thursday. You just have to work it.

* Use a Calendar – Google has an excellent online calendar that will send you reminders and notifications, as does Basecamp. 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 colour to code it. I block out hours during the working day in the clients’ colour; I find it a quick and easy at a glance way to see what I should be doing and when. I also receive notifications and schedule the calendar to alert me 15 minutes before time, so I know in advance when I’m due for a change in client-work.

Virtuoso-PA Google Calendar

* First Things First – Sometimes getting started is the hardest part, but if you have a system in place where you know that when you do something you start at step one it will make it easier for you. For example, you have been instructed to create a 10-part email marketing series for product X by XX time. The first thing you have to do is outline a series of steps for that project. So take a look at it as a whole and write or assign the progress of the series, ensuring that you also include editing and formatting time, then add each step into your schedule and calendar.

* One Thing at a Time – When you work out which parts of a project you need to do, and what order projects need to be done you need to first think of deadlines and then schedule appropriately, you’ll be able to do one thing at a time towards completion in an organised way. Sounds confusing? Just break down every project into key points. I support multiple clients’ who need my support on a number of differing tasks and I have to allot deadlines everyday. 

* One Client at a Time –  It can be very confusing to try to work for multiple clients at one time, especially if they are at the same stage of a project, the best way to avoid issues is to only work on each client’s work one at a time and that’s where the calendar comes in handy. Don’t try to batch upload articles for multiple clients to email auto-responders at the same time; this could result in a disaster. Concentrate on just one client at a time and you’ll be able to focus better and avoid mistakes.

* At the Right Time – Know yourself enough to know when you work best and do certain tasks best. Are you best able to process a task which needs more thought first thing in the morning or are you more alert after lunch?

* Learn the Tools of the Trade – When you pick tools and software to use, such as Basecamp or AWeber.com, used in this example learn everything you can about the software so that you can be of most use to your clients and stay organised for yourself. Even if I have used software multiple times before I still take the time to refresh; You never know changes and upgrades may have taken place since the last time you’ve used the software. I have experienced this in the past, one small change in the software can make it feel like you’re using a new piece of software from scratch.

* 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. Looking at your calendar helps you concentrate your mind on the tasks at hand.

So; this is the long answer to, “Which is better – one task at a time or multitasking?”

Deal with one task at a time, one project at a time, one client at a time.

Just get organised.

Multitasking and automation are two totally separate things. 

We all do some measure of activity which 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.

For instance. You can’t write an intelligent email and talk to someone on the phone at the same time; that’s multitasking.

Multitasking is a bit like rubbing your stomach and head in opposing directions ~ go on try it.

Multitasking

Karina Bailey

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Written by Karina Bailey

Karina is the real person behind the Virtual Assistant. I support local small business owners, helping to relieve their admin stress and concentrate on their core business. When not at my desk working I can be found in graveyards, researching my family history. Dancing the Salsa and listening to local bands.