Personal Productivity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people wanting to improve their personal productivity. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I always feel hesitant about this particular problem of mine. Sometimes several ideas come to me, and I feel, I should start doing all of that once. But then I have a problem, I get lost in Where I started, and What destination i wished to go. (Forgetting original goal). Also, I easily get lost, in the work flow.

I personally prefer to work one by one.But the problem with this method is I feel severe impatience, such as thought like, "I am wasting time", "I can do better" ...etc.

That's why, I want to know, What do you think?

Is it good to achieve goal one by one, or start all of them and achieve all of them at the end (though this has problem) ? What method do you recommend?

share|improve this question
possible duplicate of How to multi-task in real life? – Hauser Jun 21 '12 at 17:45
@Hauser why? I am asking whether the multitasking is useful or not. Is that a duplicate? – Anwar Jun 22 '12 at 3:14
if an answer was helpful for you, please consider selecting it as your choice. – dwwilson66 Jun 25 '12 at 11:31
@dwwilson66 I feel some confusion about what to select as my answer. That is why I remained it as open and want to see what other members like – Anwar Jun 25 '12 at 11:37
This related question might be useful – THelper Jan 24 '13 at 9:04
up vote 16 down vote accepted

I found working sequentially to be a lot more effective than in parallel. A great piece on the subject is Unitasking by Trent Walton:

I noticed something interesting the day I was confined to just 13” of screen space. Even though I couldn’t see everything I needed to operate and reference at once, I became more focused. Only seeing one window at a time enabled me to mentally hunker down on the task at hand. My actions felt purposeful; my decisions, deliberate. Surprisingly, my productivity didn’t suffer. I did slow down, but also experienced a calm efficiency—similar to that which is required when fastening the innumerable rows of snaps on a screaming baby’s pajamas. If you rush, you’re going to mess up; if you miss snaps, it’s going to take longer. And rushing makes you sweat. Never let the baby see you sweat.

Also from wikipedia on Human Multitasking:

Many researchers believe that action planning represents a "bottleneck", which the human brain can only perform one task at a time.[4] Psychiatrist Edward M. Hallowell[5] has gone so far as to describe multitasking as a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously as effectively as one.”

So +1 to doing things one at a time.

share|improve this answer
Your quoted lines I became more focused. and My actions felt purposeful; my decisions, deliberate. Surprisingly, my productivity didn’t suffer are the ones, what I was wanted to hear. Very glad, thanks – Anwar Jun 22 '12 at 2:25
While I mostly agree with this, a little addendum on multitasking: There are some tasks which require next to no focus, such as brushing teeth or eating. These can be multitasked, though anything that requires active focus is better single-tasked. Plus, full focus on one task is the fastest way to gain competence in something. – Muz Jan 23 '13 at 4:53
@Muz - I would agree. However, if you're at the point where you have to multitask brushing your teeth, you may have lost the forest for the trees. – huntmaster Apr 18 '13 at 14:46
@huntmaster Hey, I multitask brushing my teeth while rinsing off in the shower! :P There are plenty of situations which you do want to multitask, like listening to an audio book while driving a car down a clear highway. – Muz Apr 20 '13 at 14:07

There's two things going on here. The thing that I think is going to help you the most is recording and remembering your goal. The second is trying to figure out how to manage multiple projects. Understanding your goal will, in all likelihood, help you understand how to prioritize and manage.

I have a similar problem in that I've always got lots of projects going at once, and I ALWAYS have new ideas pop into my head. When I have a new idea, I take a moment to flesh it out VERY broadly. I note the goal, the result, or the outcome I'm trying to achieve. I note, very generally, how I'm going to get there. Once it's out of my head, I move on, back to my original project.

If I start getting restless because my NEW idea is more interesting than my old idea, depending on how much time I can or can't devote to it, I may take a break from my current project to work on the exciting new project. I understand my thinking enough to realize that I'm less productive doing Task A while thinking about Task B than if I took a break from Task A to do something with Task B. If I need to interrupt, I make enough notes to realize where I am and how to continue when I come back to it, and then turn my attentions elsewhere.

There are a lot of good resources on this site for time management and balancing multiple goals. The trick is to KNOW what those goals are. Once you're in the habit of noting your goals and exploring different time management techniques, you'll undoubtedly find a method that works for you. It may be to do one thing at a time, it may be to do many things at once, or, more likely, a blend of both depending on the projects and their priorities.

Whichever method works for YOU is the right one for YOU. Just remember you can't get anywhere unless you know where you're going. :)

Good luck!

share|improve this answer
+1 for your answer. This line I understand my thinking enough to realize that I'm less productive doing Task A while thinking about Task B than if I took a break from Task A to do something with Task B particularly may help me. Thanks – Anwar Jun 22 '12 at 2:18

Mind always does at least 2 task in parallel: One you can observe, another you can't. The second task is basically related to body, routine activities etc.

For example:

  • You can listen music when you are traveling or waling. Because both tasks don't require much concentration.
  • You can read books while relaxing your legs in water.

Do tasks sequentially if all tasks required good attention/concentration.

Do tasks in parallel if N-1 of them don't require attention/concentration or less.

If you think you are washing time then you need proper planning. Always be ready with some small tasks which can be finished when you are supposed to wait longer for completion of any task.

For example:

  • You can read news paper while installing some software in your PC
  • Or you can clean your desk while waiting for guests coming to your home.
share|improve this answer
Thanks. I liked your answer's point. You have some important point there. – Anwar Jan 23 '13 at 15:02
I was thinking giving more examples with explanation. But I think long text distract and make people bore. So I ever try to keep answer as short as possible – Amit Gupta Jan 23 '13 at 15:16

I've always found myself to be far more productive when I do one thing at a time, even when the task is repeating. Take, for example, that you must make lots of envelopes. Each envelope has three items to be included,two address stickers to attach, and of course each envelope must be closed by removing a tape. One way would be to:

1. Take one item from each pile  
2. Add them to an envelope 
3. Attach the sender sticker 
4. Attach the recipient sticker 
5. Remove the tape from the envelope and close it
6. Return to step 1, until done

But what I usually prefer to do is to do each of those tasks in one go, one thing at a time:

1. Make piles where each contains the three separate items ("dealing the cards")
2. Add all piles to their respective envelope
3. Attach the sender stickers to all envelopes
4. Attach the recipient stickers to all envelopes
5. Remove the tapes from all envelopes
6. Close all envelopes

The amount of steps is the same, but I find I work much faster working this way. It's like I gain much more fluidity and speed by repeating the task non-stop until it is done, and then doing the next task.

I have never done any benchmarks on this, though. Perhaps this would be a fun experiment to do - which method is faster to finish.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.