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3 Ways to Multi-Task in Chaos (45/365)

To Multi-Tasking or Not to Multi-Task?

“Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking of it.”

- Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow

Fast twitch. Slow twitch. Fast…Slow...

Something I’ve learned to appreciate about being a school principal for over a decade is how many instances require quick decisions. Being able to solve problems (lots of them) and usually simultaneously, without minimal breaks or opportunities to reset myself, “comes with the territory” of the position. For as grueling as some days can be, I’ve loved the challenging “fast twitch” nature of the work. Helping people, working with others, removing obstacles, and conquering challenges are important to being “a professional problem-solver”. It’s purposeful and meaningful work.

This, of course, is in what we can call “typical times”.

And historically, after a busy school year with students and staff, July through August is a time reserved for what I like to call “slow twitch”, or deep work. Hiring, finalizing schedules, and mapping our mission and vision-based initiatives usually dominate these days. Finding and sustaining a sense of “flow” to this work process sets the foundation for purpose-driven work during more frenetic times of September through June.


“Intelligence is not only the ability to reason; it is also the ability to find relevant material in memory and to deploy attention when needed.”

- Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow

From March 2020 through the present time, “the usual” for essentially everyone, everywhere, has been different. Demands based on an unpredictable impact of a global pandemic has forced people everywhere to think differently that we’re accustomed to in more typical times. The quick moment-by-moment decisions have blended with the need to engage in deep concentration work, as conditions and circumstances evolve in front of us.

But Is multi-tasking the only means to accomplishing tasks?

Being able to manage oneself in circumstances such as these is key.

Three Ways to Multi-Task in Chaos:

  1. During a calm and quiet period, I write out a typical day’s agenda, including the times when these usually occur in the day.

  2. I categorize daily tasks according to one of four categories, aligned with the Eisenhower Box: Urgent, Important, Not Urgent, Not Important.

  3. I observe which tasks give me energy and which leave me feeling drained. Whenever possible, I batch or balance tasks according to personal preferences, so I can recharge and expend energy in a way that sustains me.

What have I learned about making the most of my circumstances, and about sustaining time, energy, and attention to remain productive and efficient?

When we consider all that’s either within our control, within our ability to influence, or beyond our control, we realize, multi-tasking isn’t as necessary as originally thought. While certain times call for this, maintaining clear priorities and a strategy to manage these priorities is key.

Not doing these things that will create overwhelm and an urge to multi-task.

“The world makes much less sense than you think. The coherence comes mostly from the way your mind works.”

- Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

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