Stop multitasking & design better. It’s Zen-like.

If you are a designer (architecture, mechanical, graphics), whatever your discipline, take my advice and stop multitasking if you want your designs to be better. Stop multitasking if you want your design to pop! Start saying NO to people so you can focus on what you are best at.

My current role and company allow me to think this way, but it wasn’t always so. I used to multitask all the time, too much so, but I am slowly changing for the better and you can too.  I am completely pushing back on multitasking when it comes to design work, mainly because it is multi-distracting and affects my ability to create well. As Captain Picard once said “The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!” 😂😂😂 OK, here is my argument.

1. Stop saying YES to everyone. It is great to be a good soldier and chip in, many of us say yes to help out when we can. The problem when you say yes too much is that the extra tasks being downloaded on you are pulling you in too many directions. The result, your core work as a designer (what you get paid for) suffers. You don’t have to say NO outright, you just need to set boundaries and focus on core priorities first.

2. Being online is killing you. I do most of my designing unplugged these days. The constant incoming email reminders, the messenger, the WeChat, the Skype, the QQ, the whatever, were all collectively killing my train of thought. One can argue if answering instant messages is multitasking, I would argue that it absolutely is, as well as being in the annoying multi-distracting category. As a society we have come to feel (and often it is expected) that we have to be online and available all the time, we do not. The world will not end if you are unreachable for an hour or two while focusing on your design work. How do I know this? The world existed and functioned before smartphones and wifi. I try to unplug when writing or designing whenever possible. This includes turning my phone upside down, putting it on silent mode, and keeping it out of arms reach.

3. You are doing someone else’s job for them (relates to point 1). Any designer, in any discipline, can relate to this. This might sound selfish but I am feeling selfish on point 3 😊 When designers do extra design work for others we are often making them look great and many times not getting credit for it from the right people. This hurts us directly, but worse than that, this extra multitasking work actually takes away from the quality of our core design work because are deadlines start coming up too fast due to the extra time-consuming tasks we as designers perform. Stop doing other peoples jobs for them. Saying NO more (with an explanation) will actually help you and your company or client.

4. You know design, push back on people who do not. People who don’t design do not generally understand how much work it takes to create something good. Because of this they also generally don’t understand the value of any given design as presented in any given medium which often results in too much or too little value being placed on any given design or task. As such, non-designers tend to push designers for more, and faster, and multiple designs at once. When you react to their wants without pushing back you are hurting yourself and you are also hurting your company or client because you are not properly managing expectations which will eventually hurt you. Everyone has their strengths, your strength is being a great designer and knowing design, so push back and educate people on the true value of any given design. Don’t let people who don’t know, multitask you to death.

I could go on and on and so could every designer that I know. The hard part of being good in your given design discipline is that you have skills that others do not possess and extra tasks always seems to come your way. Because you are multi-talented it is also perceived that you can handle multitasks. I am not saying you can’t, everyone is different, my message is when you accept too many tasks your core design work suffers because you are distracted and run out of time.

So say NO more, push back more often, educate your colleagues, company, and clients more and turn cutting multitasking out into a positive for everyone. You will feel freer to create and actually get more done by focusing on completing singular design tasks. Ever since I started cutting out multitasking my design work is better, my work day is better, it is simply more Zen-like around here 🙏

Gary Moran

P.S. In rapid manufacturing, when you take on a job you have to assign enough resources to it to see it through to the end. If you start multitasking manufacturing and pulling resources away from jobs that are 80% finished in favour of starting a new job you will quickly have a disaster on your hands. Design work is the same.

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