We hear a lot about multitasking, and trying to accomplish as much as possible at once. However, the reality is that multitasking isn’t really effective for most people. In many cases, multitasking involves divided attention, and can actually reduce your productivity.
Instead of trying to do more than one thing, you might be better off singletasking — focusing on one thing at a time until it’s accomplished.
Why It’s More Effective to Singletask
Singletasking is more effective because it allows you to focus on what you’re doing, and probably get it done faster, and do it with an eye toward quality. Research indicates that multitasking isn’t really doing multiple things at once. Instead, it’s actually task switching. Your brain is switching between the things you’re doing. As a result, none of the things you’re doing is getting your full attention, and that can be detrimental to the overall result.
When you singletask, your brain focuses on one task at a time and you are far more likely to keep at it without getting distracted and watching your productivity plummet.
Tips for Singletasking More Effectively
Even if you know that it makes more sense to singletask, you might still have trouble sticking to it. There are always distractions, and you might have developed habits that lead you to feel as though you aren’t accomplishing as much when you aren’t trying to do several things at once. If you want to try
If you want to try singletasking and test whether or not it can change the way you do things, here are some tips for being more effective:
- Minimize distractions: Turn off notifications. Turn off the TV. If you can manage it, go into a space where there aren’t other people to bother you. If you work at a coffee shop or in some other location with others, consider getting earphones to play music to block out distractions.
- Take breaks: After a while, your concentration breaks down and you look for reasons to be distracted. Head off this tendency by scheduling in breaks. Figure out whether you work best in 20- or 30-minute stints, and take a five-minute break after you’ve worked at a task in a sustained manner.
- Create a priority list: Know which items are most important. I start my day knowing which client work needs to be completed first so that if distractions do crop up later, I don’t fall behind. Focus on your most important tasks first so you can give them your full attention.
- Learn to ignore notifications: The idea here is to avoid immediately responding to every attempt to get your attention. You don’t need to look at the text immediately. Turning off notifications can help, but you also need to work on reducing the number of times you check email or look at Facebook.
The idea is to create new habits of doing work. We’re so used to having multiple tabs open and checking for emails and Facebook likes that we can get distracted more easily than we think. Practice lengthening your attention span and focusing on what you’re doing right now, and you might be surprised at how your productivity increases.