Current Issue 13thFebruary 2016 - 19 February 2016, i.e. No. 45

Multi-tasking, an effective tool of time management

—Hena Naqvi

Contemporary age is an age of speed. We all are vying towards speedy, timely and successful completion of our works and assignments. We have been using technology for bringing about quality in our work.  From time to time, we have been devising several ways and means for an effective management of our time. Multi-tasking is one of the  ways and mediums that can help us in ensuring an effective time management by filling in the gaps.

The term-multi-tasking is an outcome of the cyber-world or the world of computers wherein we see computers doing several jobs simultaneously. This can be- attaching a file, typing of a word document and giving a print command. All these works can take place simultaneously. Because of being done simultaneously during a given period of time, the process is called multi-tasking and the computers are called multi-taskers. The term has recently been adopted to apply on human beings as well.

When applied on human beings, concept of multi-tasking refers to the quality or technique of managing and coordinating several functions together. The concept aims at saving time for smooth and timely completion of the assignment by ensuring the coordinated use of the resources. In the context of computers, resources are the different types of software or hardware. But in case of human beings, the resources can be anything useful which is available with us and can help us. This can be human beings, materials, money etc.  In fact, we all have been multi-taskers much-much before the evolution of the computers’ multi-tasking.  There is just a need to adopt a systematic approach like that of computers for becoming better multi-taskers. This implies planning, organising and performing the task with the help of available resources within a given period of time. This is what a computer does or is made to do by us during performing several works together. If a machine like computers can do multi-tasking, why cannot human beings, the creators of computers and the supreme creation of the Almighty!  

We Indians are quite used to the concept of multi-tasking with Goddess Durga and other deities having several pairs of hands that are known to represent different works. Perhaps, the goddess blessed the women with the virtue of multi-tasking and that is why, it is very common to see women doing various works together, be it taking care of children, household chores, social relations or family relations. Women’s multi-tasking qualities have become more evident with the emergence of the concept of ‘working women’ or ‘new women’. The quality of multi-tasking enables them to maintain a balance between the professional and personal lives. To some extent, the virtue of multi-tasking has been guiding the success of contemporary new woman who is a well-versed homemaker, a caring mother and wife as well as a smart professional. Helping the child in the homework while the washing machine is commanded to wash clothes and something getting cooked on the gas stove is something very common to see in the households.   Women travelling in the women’s bogey of Mumbai’s local trains are often seen cutting vegetables during their return journey from work place to home. They do so for utilising the time of journey. This enables them to manage a few more  free moments at home with the family. We can also see the executive of an organisation developing power point presentation for the meeting (he is going to attend) on his laptop while he is taking his lunch during his journey in a train or plane.

The multi-tasker always tries to fill in the time- gaps.  If women are said to be good multi-taskers, it is not because they are super human beings or not just because of their stereotype gender roles in the society. It is because a well-thought planning and management strategy works behind.  We ignore these aspects because these appear to be too simple to be noticed. But taking a notice of and working upon the concept of multi-tasking would certainly add up to our effectiveness and productivity in professional life.

The quality of multi-tasking is something which every human being can develop and use optimally for better outcome of the actions she or he is taking.  ‘Virus’ of the movie ‘3 Idiots’ was shown writing simultaneously with both hands. It is really difficult for the brain to concentrate on two or more works together but as narrated in the movie; Virus had trained his brain to command his both hands to write simultaneously. This implies that with determination and practice, brain and different organs of the body can be trained to make a person a multi-tasker.

The term is not to be understood strictly in the context of multiple or simultaneous works being done together. The tasks related to multi-tasking may be direct or indirect or visible or invisible, may be done physically or mentally/intellectually or a combination of both. It should rather be understood as a process; a process which involves different types of resources commanded to bring out their outputs. These outputs combine to help you to complete your task smoothly within a given unit of time. From a household, when the concept is employed on big organisations, this refers to a team or several teams working simultaneously on their given tasks over a given period of time. Here the tasks can be entirely different from one another, hands can be various but the goal remains the same and that is the growth of the organisation. Similarly a multi-tasker like a housewife strives for the growth of the family. She practices the concept of multi-tasking for saving time and energy for contributing better to the family. 

This remains a moot point whether the concept of multi-tasking is an art, a science or anything else. This depends upon one’s perception to see the concept from one’s own angle. But an understanding of the different aspects of multi-tasking makes it clear that it is more or less a management concept for it is based on the principles of planning, organising, coordinating and performing.

  • Planning: This refers to formulating short, very short, medium, long or very long-term strategies. It involves enlisting of the tasks, determination of the objective, time frame, the available resources and the ways to do it. In other words, it defines what is to be done, why, within what time period, with what resources and how?
  • Organising and coordinating: The twin-concept refers to a systematic arrangements and integration of inputs, materials or resources. At this stage you also establish a link between various inputs or activities or the resources. All the inputs once brought together lead you towards an easy and smooth performance of the actual task which you have planned. At this stage you also tend to control and command the future action with your planned, organised and coordinated elements. In other words, you create a ground for the actual action. 
  • Performing: This is what you have been striving for in the chain of multi-tasking. At this stage, you accomplish the actual task with the help of previous planning, organisation and coordination. These are various stages of multi tasking.

With a well-projected course of action or strategy involving effective planning and organising, the performance stage becomes easier. In other words, with well-prepared home work, your ‘class work’ becomes easier and allows you to excel and shine. If we take up the example of women cutting vegetables during journey in Mumbai’s local trains, we find an application of  a well planned organising and coordination strategy:

The available resources in this case are the knife, vegetable and the seat. The given time unit is the time taken by train to reach the destination during which they try to accomplish the task of cutting the vegetable. By utilising this time, women manage more time for the family or for themselves.

This is just an example how can we do multi-tasking. With a better strategy, we can work out in a better way. There is no blue print or a readymade formula of multi-tasking. At times you work on the tailor- made principle i.e. ‘cut to fit’ strategy while at times, the frame of the task can be created according to the given set of task. It is all about your ability and competence to plan, organise and perform the task from the point of view of multi-tasking.  The more we explore the concept of multi-tasking, the more we learn its techniques and it becomes easier to practice this concept for enhancing one’s potential. There is a need to develop an insight for the application of the concept of multi-tasking in one’s personal and professional life.

The Author is presently working as part time Correspondent of PTI in Gorakhpur. e-mail: hena_


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