The Power of Single Tasking

Think the human brain is capable of multitasking? Think again. Our brains were not meant to handle more than one complex task at the same time.

We can do simple things like walk and chew gum simultaneously because we don’t have to think about those tasks. When it comes to doing things that need our attention, our brains can only focus on one task at a time.

What’s Really Happening

Neuroscience has been able to prove that the brain can’t give full attention to more than one task that requires mental effort. Multitasking is not possible. So what’s really happening?When you’re performing two tasks that require mental focus, your brain is switching from one activity to the other. It can take a 10th of a second. In other words, what you’re doing is diverting attention from one part of your brain to another part. It may not sound like a big deal but it’s not a good thing.

Trying to multitask decreases productivity by as much as 40%. It also diminishes the quality of what you’re trying to accomplish. What multitasking does for you is increase your stress levels. Do it long enough and you run the risk of jeopardizing your health.

The best thing to do is to stop trying to multitask and give one thing your full attention before moving on to something else.

Single-Tasking

If you want to be more productive, focusing on one thing at a time is the way to go. It almost sound counter-intuitive, right? However, single-tasking boosts productivity and creativity. It also makes you smarter.

Focusing on one task and finishing it is more efficient and takes less time. Let’s take working out as an example. If you focus on doing that workout, you’ll be done with it in no time. If you stop in between to socialize, you’ll find it takes twice as long to finish the workout. And you may not feel like you got a good workout in.

How to Single-Task

If you want to see your productivity soar and the quality of your work, try single-tasking with these steps, but remember it is going to take some work and you won't do it perfectly right away. Just like physical exercise, these changes will be a mental exercise that you will improve on each time you do it.

  • Choose to do just one task. It may be something that you think will take a while or will take a few minutes. The point is to pick ONE thing.
  • Get rid of distractions. If that means going somewhere that’s quiet do so. Don’t log onto any social media accounts. Don’t read emails.
  • Group your tasks. If you have ten things on your list to accomplish and 6 of them are the same or require the same process, knock those out first and then move on to a different task or set of tasks. For example if you normally answer emails sporadically in the middle of doing other tasks, set apart a specific time block to answer all the emails in one sitting. This way they don't distract away from the other tasks and you save time and mental energy transitioning from task to task.
  • Give yourself a deadline. By giving yourself a specific time frame to finish the task, you force your brain to have laser focus on that project.

Starting to single task when you’re used to multitasking may take a few attempts. Be gentle with yourself. Keep trying. Don’t give up.

Conclusion

Single tasking should be a habit for every area of your life. Your work life, family life, and even your personal life. When at work, focus on one project at a time. When you’re with family, set a time where you can give them your full attention. When you’re at the gym or doing something to take care of you, do one thing at a time. Single tasking is less stressful and more satisfying than multitasking. When focusing on one thing, you’ll find that you get more done is less time.

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