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It is said that to work effectively we should focus and concentrate. But it is also true that to get more productive, one has to work a lot. So is it better to work on more than one project at a time to be more productive?

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6 Answers 6

Yes, you could work on many active tasks and still be as productive. Sometimes you find that a task is blocked by some external factor; then it makes sense to do something else rather than sit idle. It might also be more fun to have several things going; in that case that could boost your productivity. But there are some things to observe:

  • Never do several things at the same time (multitasking). That is very bad for your productivity. Only a few percent of people have been shown to be able to multitask efficiently.
  • Don't switch between tasks very often, because there's a cost associated with switching.
  • Strictly limit the number of ongoing projects. For example, in Kanban you cannot exceed the "work-in-progress limit" number of tasks. Another example: in Scrum you focus on a limited number of tasks, and the focus above all is to complete the tasks.
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Re: limit the number of ongoing procects: I'm not sure if this was in GtD, but to illustrate how to set priorities the author told of the female military officer who made a to-do list and then crossed out everything except the two most important things, thus making sure that these two things would get done, instead of getting confused and lost about what to do. If you want to effectively switch tasks, you want to know what task to switch to and not waste time and energy with a mulitude of equally attractive or urgent options. Make sure your alternatives are clear and switching is automatic. –  what Mar 14 '13 at 8:37

There is nothing wrong with working on more than one project at a time. In fact, keep a notebook and jot down ideas about potential projects as much as you can and further explore or start these up whenever you have the motivation to do so.

Ideas are great, but actions are what matter. Work on as many projects as you want. Don't be afraid to drop projects that aren't making progress. Try things, explore paths, see what works for you!

You can't ACTUALLY work on multiple projects at the "same time". You can have multiple projects running simultaneously, but when you sit down to work, ONLY work on one at a time. Focus and concentrate on one and do nothing else while your are working (i.e, no distractions!).

Set a timeframe. It could be one hour, one day. Doesn't matter. Set a timeframe, and during that period focus only on one project. You don't have to finish the project, and you can have tons of projects. The point is, when you start working, that's when you zone in on only one and nothing else.

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Switching between tasks harms momentum. However, if you're not in the mood for doing something you've been doing a lot, there is no momentum to lose.

I'm a person who often has a lot of creative projects, often 8 or more things I really want to do. However, when they are in idea form, they're completely useless and you have no clue how much (or how little effort it takes).

The best thing to do with multiple ideas is to dip in each of them. Build some kind of prototype. The concept of prototyping does not simply apply to technical things; I've also used it for business and novel writing. A prototype novel would involve the outline, a large sculpture would involve a miniature 3D sketch, and so on. It has to be cheap enough to minimize loss if you abandon it, but uncover the essence and challenges of actually building the project. As you do it, you'll figure out deep inside you if the final product is worth the full effort or if it's too difficult or not as good as you hoped.

While in the stage of working towards these prototypes, it's better to switch between different projects. Your costs are minimum and creativity is often inspired by different fields.

Eventually, after you finish a few of these prototypes, you'll have to dedicate yourself towards one project. Sell off or archive the other ideas and focus on the one you have.

Once the project has been clearly defined, it's far more productive to focus on that project to completion.

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It depends on how you handle multiple tasks at a same time. One can be efficient, but at the same time, one can't given justice to any of the task.

Being multi-tasker is a real talent. It trains mind to think beyond the limits and handle stress pretty well. Multi-tasking skill improves interest in work as one is no more working on same thing again and again, if you get bored or can't think more on one thing, you can jump to another and then you can come back to first one. It will surely give you more energy and power you for managing time as well as you will learn planning and organizing, too.

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This will depend to some extent on the scale and scope of these projects. If you have a major, high profile project it may be very important to focus solely on that, however if you have a number of simple, small pieces of work that you can rotate through it could be fine to spend 30 minutes on each one.

A key to productivity is learning through experience the best activities for each project, at that particular time, based on experience of your best working practices and the requirements of each project.

So flexibility in working styles is very useful here. Being able to change your style to be very focused as required, or to be able to juggle multiple work items if necessary.

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Yes, I think it's great to work on several important projects (important being the key word) - keeps things interesting.

The challenge I find is how do I keep from just jumping back and forth between them and working on the "fun" stuff in each most of the time.

The best thing I've learned over my career is to take each project, early on, and try and break it down into very small, manageable, tasks. As small as "write page one of presentation" so I have a good sense of what needs to get done and I feel good about the little progress I make. Plus, when I jump between projects I have a decent roadmap for what needs to get done next. Just takes a few minutes of advance planning for most projects and I'm a lot happier each day.

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