You’re at work, and you’ve got a lot on your plate. You’re answering emails, talking on the phone, and typing up a report simultaneously. It seems like you’re getting a lot done, but are you really?
In our fast-paced, constantly-connected world, it’s no wonder that multitasking has become the norm. In some situations, it seems unavoidable.
You might be up to your elbows in spreadsheets, but you can’t just ignore your client when your phone rings. At the same time, answering your phone and drafting an email simultaneously is one way to end up with that client’s name in your recipient field. A private email that was intended to go to your boss.
Thanks to multitasking, you’re now left to clean up a mess that’s put you behind. You’re also a little bit embarrassed. And if you didn’t know you were distracted before, you certainly are now.
Thankfully, there is a better way to work that doesn’t involve (as many) careless errors or picking and choosing tasks. You can get everything done more efficiently and seamlessly, and all it requires is taking things one at a time.
That’s where single-tasking comes in.
Doing one activity at a time may seem like an archaic way of working, but it’s one of the best ways to boost focus and productivity.
When you single-task, you can focus all of your attention on the task at hand. This leads to better results and a sense of accomplishment because you’re not splitting your attention between multiple tasks. Instead, you’re fully engaged in one task, which means less strain on your brain. And once you are through with that task, you can be fully present for a relaxing break, creating more time and less stress.
How Do I Apply Single-Tasking?
Here are a few ways to make the most of this way of working:
-Be mindful. Incorporating mindfulness into your work or personal life will help you catch yourself doing two things at once or bouncing back and forth quickly between them (which is basically the same thing). Practice becoming more proficient at noticing where your focus and energy are going in each moment.
-Take breaks. Breaks are a necessary part of the single-tasking process. When taking a break, be sure to disconnect from work completely. Time spent away from your work will help you return with a clearer mind and fresher eyes.
-Set boundaries. When you’re done for the day, be done. Turn off your computer, put away your work materials, and disconnect. Avoid working on tasks that can wait until tomorrow, as it will only lead to frustration and a lack of productivity.
-Start small. If you’re not used to single-tasking, start with smaller tasks that don’t require a lot of mental energy. Think of it as a warm-up that will help you continue working on one thing at a time without getting overwhelmed from the start.
-Create a distraction-free environment. Whether turning off your phone or working in a space without noise distractions, find what works best for you and stick to it.
-Use a timer or try the Pomodoro technique. This time-management technique involves working for 25 minutes and then taking a five-minute break. After four “pomodoros,” you take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.
Techniques like this that operate around single-tasking can be incredibly effective in boosting productivity. Whether you focus on a single task for 20 minutes or 50, do what’s in your control to minimize interruptions.
Eventually, these focus-powered blocks will amount to days of productivity, then months, years, and so on. Remember that how you choose to build upon each block – each task – is how you build your life. You can center your life around clarity or chaos; the choice is yours.
Boost Your Productivity, Boost Your Life.
We are constantly reminded that we need to be doing multiple things at once to be productive. In reality, we’re often doing several tasks at once, but rarely are any of them done well.
Consider single-tasking as a more productive work method that brings focus and clarity. In a world that will continue to pull us in different directions anyway, those are two things we can’t afford to lose.
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