We all know multitasking causes problems and makes it hard to get things done, but as with most anything in the world there is an exception. If you start layering your tasks properly, you can get multiple things done at once without decimating your efficiency.
Photo by David Goehring
Linsey Knerl, writing for personal finance blog Wise Bread, suggests that layering your tasks can make multitasking possible:
Multitasking works when the tasks you are attempting to complete require different levels of thought and only one requires you to really focus your thought processes. For example, folding laundry while you are having a phone conversation (with the phone on speaker) or typing a letter while dinner simmers on the stove.
Multiple tasks can be completed when they are layered by their level of attention needed. If you only need minimal attention on one task, for example, doing the laundry while another task is in process (such as getting dinner started), then you can layer in a more complex task, like answering a few emails. This layering of different types of tasks is still multitasking, and it can be done successfully. However, once you add in another task that requires more thought processes (taking a phone call from your boss, for example) one of the tasks must stop. In this example, answering the emails should be halted.
I do this frequently and it works just fine. So long as you don't overload your senses with too much, it's actually very possible to handle more than one task at a time. If you've ever used your computer or phone while watching television, you know it can be done.
For tips on how to set up effective multitasking layers, check out the full post over at Wise Bread.