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You know what multitasking is: doing multiple things at once. Chances are, you think it’s pretty productive. But the opposite is actually true: when you try to multitask, you often wind up taking longer to complete any single task, and you’re not doing your best work for any of those tasks. This is because multitasking spreads your energy and your attention. You’re constantly aware of what else you’re trying to do. Instead, try single tasking.
What is Single Tasking?
Single tasking, like the name suggests, means focusing on a single task at a time. The way you do this is by minimizing interruptions. You’re free to direct your entire attention to the one task, which means you complete it more efficiently. Often, this means the final product is higher quality than it would be when you multitask.
Minimizing distractions is easier said than done, however. If you’re the type who often checks your phone, even when there’s no alert for new messages, you might need to turn it off or keep it in another room. Similarly, when you log on to your computer, you need to make sure to keep your email closed and stop yourself from opening Facebook or Reddit in a background tab. Open the fewest number of tabs that you need to accomplish what you are doing, right now. If having background music helps you stay focused, then use it, but I recommend songs with no words. There are lots of playlists for creativity, brain focus, etc that can help you accomplish more than you think.
Using it to Your Benefit
Single tasking may be easier when you know when you’ll have a chance to check your email or social media site, however. Studies suggest that taking a short break every 90 minutes help you to be more productive. During those breaks, you can give in to the urge to check all your alerts. But then you need to return your full attention to the task at hand.
Our brains get tired, so a few minutes of fresh air, listening to some music, or just closing your eyes allows you to refocus. Stretches or even a few laps around the house to get the blood flowing again can help you be ready for your next work session.Try to take breaks between each task you are working on. It can make a difference when you are switching gears.
More Tips to Consider
Another tip to becoming more productive is to write everything down. Don’t rely on your memory if you want to make sure to finish every task on your to-do list. Of course, you don’t have to use a pencil and notebook. You can make memos on your phone or in your Google Calendar to keep yourself accountable. Making note also takes off the pressure, so you don’t have to remember everything you need to do. I love using Google calendar. I am more likely to see it there than in a notebook since I have a million notebooks, but use what works best for you.
You can set up your day beforehand, so you’ll know exactly what you’re doing during every 90-minute block. Doing this allows you to set up your workspace and ensure you have everything you need to complete those tasks. Then, when you’re ready, you start with a single task and see it through until it’s complete.
But how do you know what to do? You need to prioritize. What needs to be done now? What can wait? Some things are more time-sensitive, such as the article with the looming deadline.
It might take time to get into the headspace of single tasking, but the results will speak for themselves.
How will you block your time to allow for one task at a time?