So as I see it, we really have a few issues here --
- Improving timing.
The more you cook, the faster you'll get at it. (unless you try to go too fast, and cut off a finger ... that slows you down). And sharp knives -- can't stress the importance of sharp knives enough. It's also fairly important to learn how to flip your food in the pan. It looks cool and showy on TV, but it serves a couple of legitimate purposes: it cools down the food and the pan; it's quicker than trying to use something to stir; it actually gets the stuff on top (not cooking as fast) down to the bottom and visa-versa (more even cooking that stirring), and it can be done one handed, so you don't have to go and wash that slimy chicken hand before tending to things.
Watching other people cook, even cooking shows, and watching their technique might give you a few clues for improvement -- how to quickly dice an onion, or dispatch a bell pepper, etc.
- Multitasking effectively.
This one's tricky ; Ian's comment about using all of your senses is important -- if you hear the sizzle in the pan change, it might be time to give it a flip (or past time); smells that something might be browning a touch too fast ... by the time you see the giant grease fire or hear the smoke alarm, it's too late. But for a lot of things, it's instinct after a while -- give things a stir or a flip even if you don't think they need it yet; it's better to be too early than too late for most foods.
(You can also get "Order Up" for the Wii -- but even on hard, it's a little too easy; and the final "Fortified Chef" was easier than playing the harder levels, so was a bit anti-climactic; we need a patch to make it harder)
And to build on the chickeny hand comment -- I always try to keep one hand clean at all times, so I can try to deal with whatever emergency comes up. (unfortunately, it's my right hand, as that's the one I hold the knife in, and my cell phone's in my left pocket normally, so people calling me when I'm trying to cook really sucks). For breading I normally sacrifice the right hand, and leave the left one clean ... so practice the food flipping with both hands.
There's a few things at play -- mise en plas helps -- so you've got everything prepped before you start cooking; but not everything's quick cooking. You really need to look at your menu, and select some stuff where you have to do the work ahead, then it's going to bake for 30 min, unattended, while you select another item that's going to take 10 min prep and 20 min to cook, with occassional stirring, and then the last item that's going to take 20 min prep but no cooking. As FordBuchanan mentioned -- there's sometimes items that can be done in advance, but its also important for looking at the places where you can pause -- turn it down to low while you're catching up on something else.
You also have to be able to read the recipe and see how accurate their time estimate for you is -- if it calls for mostly chopping, and you're great at chopping, it might be less prep time ... but if you're crap, it might take you twice as long. (hmm... yep, I did say I need to build better recipe management software a few years back that would handle that ... as well as I know, none of 'em handle that aspect yet)