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.
Therefore, the real question should be: How do I handle multiple projects by multiple clients in an efficient manner?
* 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.
* Use a Calendar – Google has an excellent online calendar that will send you reminders and notifications, and so 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 color to code it.
* First Things First – Sometimes getting started is the hardest part, so 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, you have been instructed 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 write of the series, then edit, then format, then load into and schedule the messages.
* 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 in order to assign deadlines to others appropriately, and to yourself in the right order, you’ll be able to do one thing at a time toward completion of the project in an organized way.
* One Client 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. Don’t try to batch upload articles for multiple clients to email autoresponders, for instance; 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. If you are better at writing in the evening, schedule your evenings for writing so that you can post the articles the following morning when you need less mind power.
* Learn the Tools of the Trade – When you pick tools and software to use, such as Basecamp or AWeber.com, learn everything you can about the software so that you can be of most use to your clients and stay organized for yourself.
* 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 the 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?” 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.