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Multitasking A Ridiculous Workload – How I Do It

I don’t! There’s no such thing as multitasking. At least, not how most of us think about it……

Being successful as a Data Professional is hard. When you’re good at what you do, you are in demand.

If you’re like most data professionals then there’s always something else that needs doing. In fact, should you ever find yourself with nothing to do, then well, you’re doing it wrong.

There’s only so much time that you have available to work with and so you need to make sure you spend it wisely (See: The Best Database Administrators Automate Everything).

This means ensuring that you focus your time and energy on what is most important. For me personally, this is determined by the achievable value of completing a given task and it’s priority.

So You Think You’re Good at Multitasking

Well I’m sorry but you are not. In fact, none of us are. Ironically those of us that think we’re good at multitasking are apparently the worst at it (Beware Employees Who Boast About Multitasking).


Being a Data Professional is hard

Multitasking is a misnomer, people can’t actually do more than one task at a time. What most of us consider to be multitasking is in fact task-switching, the act of switching back and forth from one task to the next. Task-switching is expensive and you could be loosing as much as 40% of your productivity in the process.

I encourage you to stop believing the multitasking myth and to instead invest your energy in organising your task workflow so that you can dedicate uninterrupted time to focus on a single given task, preferably from start to finish (or at least up to the point where you personally cannot move it further forward).

If you can do this you will avoid the associated costs(time and focus) of task switching and increase your overall effectiveness.

Workload Management For The Data Professional

To ensure that you are investing your time and energy in the right place, you must use a system.

I don’t care how high your IQ is or how awesome that photographic memory is. One day, they will let you down. Use a system, it’s simple and more reliable.

It doesn’t really matter which system you decide to choose, so long as you do use one. Often it’s a matter of personal preference and in time you will identify which approaches work best for you, perhaps even a combination of several.

There are entire publications written on the subject of time/task management and productivity techniques, the most popular being Getting Things Done(GTD). Personally I find it to be a bit overkill and too restrictive for my tastes, which is why I like the more lightweight model put forward in Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy.

The Eat That Frog System

Book Eat That Frog

Eat That Frog – by Brian Tracy

The essential theme of the book (Eat That Frog) is that you should always eat your biggest and ugliest frog first. In other words complete the work that you want to do the least first, as the things that you procrastinate on and avoid doing are almost always your most important tasks.

Frogs aside, the book outlines a simple and effective task management system that I have adopted myself and tweaked to my specific needs. If you are not already using a system of your own, then I would highly recommend that you give this one a try.

Quite simply, it requires that you first split your tasks into categories. A through to D.

A – Must be completed today
B – Should be completed today
C – Nice to complete someday
D – Delegate

(You’re all smart folks and I’m sure you get the general idea so I’m not going to explain the detailed reasoning behind each of these categories, that’s what the book is for. If you have any specific questions though feel free to drop me an email.)

Within each category you then assign each task a numerical priority, with 1 being the most important.

Once completed, your system shows you exactly what you need to be working on right now, with A1 being your most important task.

Task Log Example

Task Log Example

Increase Your Effectiveness By Getting Organised

By using a task management system such as the one I described here, you can keep an accurate track of workload, prioritise and ensure that you spend more of your time delivering on what’s really important.

Do you have a task management system that you like to use or have some tips of your own? Share your thoughts in the Community Forum.


John Sansom - SQL Server DBA in the UK

John Sansom (Blog | Twitter) is a Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) of SQL Server and publisher of the free SQL community ebook DBA JumpStart, an inspiring collection of advice for Data Professionals, written by 20 SQL Server experts. Awarded the Microsoft Community Contributor(MCC) award, John is a prolific blogger and can be found regularly writing about SQL Server and Professional Development over at www.johnsansom.com.


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