MULTI-ASKING. Nope. This is not a typo. I have officially taken the task out of multitasking.
I’m often asked how I can manage all the projects I have on my plate. I’ve thought long and hard about this, and I’ve come to this conclusion: It’s not about managing the tasks … it’s about managing the “asks.”
I believe that communication is the MOST important aspect of effective multitasking. In my efforts to learn and grow as a Project Manager, I’ve read a lot about the subject, and it always seems to boil down to three distinct areas: strategy, planning, and execution. I wholeheartedly agree with these factors, but communication needs to be the bridge that connects them. It’s all about the chatter. It’s asking questions, relaying the vision, updating timelines, celebrating progress, brainstorming obstacles, supporting the team, and most importantly … calling out for help.
It really is a bit of a mind-flip. I feel like the general consensus is that chatter slows the process, that more can get accomplished when you put your head down and power through. I don’t know about you, but I typically see bad things happen when people aren’t “looking up” (myself included). I’ve experienced a few project meltdowns as a result of this very thing. I absolutely subscribe to having a central person directing project traffic, but if that person isn’t constantly checking in and reporting on what’s happening, it’s really easy for things to grind to a halt. It’s like trying to drive all the cars on the road during rush hour by yourself. It’s impossible—and exhausting. I call it “project fatigue.”
Happily, there are tons of strategies for communicating effectively. Here are my top five go-to’s:
- Be clear, focused, and on point when giving direction. Nobody wants wishy-washy leadership!
- If you don’t know something, ask questions (come on, who can know everything?).
- Listen—really listen—to the answers to your questions. I like to repeat back what I hear to show that I understand.
- Tell the truth (about deadlines, obstacles, concerns, capabilities, expenses, and needing help). Being able to tell the truth is a huge strength and oozes confidence.
- Know how you’re communicating. Watch your tone (especially when you’re “up against it”). Managing projects = managing relationships.
The debate over the effectiveness of multitasking will rage on forever, but no one can argue with the effectiveness of multi-asking.
Come on … I dare you.
As an aside, it was like my parents consulted some sort of oracle in naming me Cathy. Chatty Cathy is definitely my calling.
Illustrations by Hamish MacDonald.