Navigating the Multitasking Maze: Effective Strategies to Manage Multiple Projects

As CTO of CohesionForce and “Doer of All the Things”, I often struggle with balancing all of the plates that I need to keep spinning. My current responsibilities include being a husband, CTO of CohesionForce, Founder of Huntsville AI, Software Lead for a Missile Defense Agency Program, and Treasurer and Captain in the Keel Mountain Volunteer Fire Department. Each of these come with responsibilities and often constraints that cannot be ignored.

While I don’t always get this right, I have come up with a collection of practices over the years that are extremely helpful. You may find that some don’t have the same impact for you, and that’s ok. The goal is to find an action that you can take to get better. Let’s dive into some daily practices that can help.

1. Identify Priorities and Establish Guardrails

Not all tasks are created equal. Recognize that you can’t treat every task with the same level of urgency. The challenge here is that some priorities are set by someone else, and others are up to you. I find that it’s useful to put them into a single list where there can only be one item per line.

Time-blocking is your ally. Dedicate specific blocks of time to work on each project based on their priority. This method not only helps you focus on the task at hand but also ensures that each project moves forward. Make decisions early for what to work on next. If I wait until I finish one task to decide what to work next, I often run into a mental block. The best description I have found for this is the “Paradox of Choice”

Prepare for interruptions. It’s not a matter of if disruptions will occur, but when. Have a plan to manage these inevitable distractions so they don’t derail your entire day. Also, remember that if you don’t respect your time – other’s will follow your example. Prepare for interruptions but don’t invite them.

2. Craft Unique Spaces for Each Project

Switching with a routine. Transitioning between projects can be as simple as taking a moment to jot down where you left off. Closing all relevant documents and emails can signal your brain that it’s time to shift focus.

Physical space differentiation. Separate your projects not just in your mind but also in your physical workspace. Even small changes, like rearranging items on your desk or playing different music, can help mentally delineate your projects.

Get moving. Never underestimate the power of a physical break. Stand up, stretch, or even take a short walk. The simple act of passing through a doorway can be a physical and psychological reset. The “Doorway Effect” is often blamed for forgetfulness, but it can also be used to your advantage.

3. Prioritize Effort Over Completion

Progress, not perfection. As highlighted in Nir Eyal’s book Indistractable, the goal is to keep moving forward. If you consistently put in the effort, completion will naturally follow.

Stay adaptable. Your initial time allocations might not always hold up as projects evolve. Make it a habit to review how you’re spending your time to ensure it aligns with your priorities. If you find things are not getting completed even though you are putting in the effort – the most likely case is that you are over-committed. It’s time to send up a flare, ask for help, phone a friend – whatever your approach is. It is unlikely that you can create more effort.

Learn to say NO. For every time you say YES to something, you are likely saying NO to something else – it’s just hidden or implied. One helpful technique is to find someone that can say NO for you.

Those are the top 3 approaches that I use. By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, I hope that you’ll find it easier to handle multiple projects without feeling overwhelmed. If you decide to put these into practice, or find other approaches that work well for you, please let me know!

By the way:

Practice I am best at: Not all tasks are created equal

Practice I am worst at: Progress, not perfection