If your day is like most people’s, your attention is split all day long. Think about it. When was the last time you gave your full 100% attention to anything?
This is probably despite the fact that you’re aware that multitasking hurts your productivity, and in fact, isn’t actually possible. The human brain is not designed to do more than one thing at a time with any level of success.
Instead, when you try to multi-task, your brain has to quickly jump back and forth (or between several things.) Some people appear to pretty good at it, but it causes stress levels to rise whether they’re aware of it or not.
Unfortunately, modern workplaces don’t value single-tasking. They’re constantly pushing people “do more with less” and “move fast.”
So, what’s the solution?
Yes, it feels counter-intuitive to what the workforce values. But in truth, what any employer values is a workforce that gets the job done and is responsive to the needs of their command chain.
With single-tasking, you can, and will, be.
In fact, by sitting and working through complex problems, you will rebuild your brain’s ability to focus. Your short term memory (aka working memory) will actually get better – and your employer will love that!
And because your brain won’t be constantly trying to catch up with you, you won’t feel as stressed. You’ll actually like what you’re doing again. Or at least be able to hone in on what you don’t like much more easily.
Also, as crazy as it might sound, you’ll also get more done! There are two reasons for this. First, you’ll actually know how long things take and be able to schedule your day accordingly. Second, a lot of the “time wasters” that used to pull your attention away will naturally fall away.
How to Start Single Tasking
Get Rid of Distractions
This includes your phone and unrelated open browser tabs. Even if you think you’re not distracted by them, notifications pull your attention, no matter how briefly. And simply having them there shifts your focus.
Use a Timer
It’s a lot to ask to spend eight hours single tasking right out of the gate. Instead, start with something like five minutes and build up. Think of the Pomodoro technique of spending, 25 minutes focused on one thing with a five-minute break. You may find you’re still pushed into multitasking for at least part of the day. Find a balance between single tasking and multitasking that works for you and your work situation.
Take a Break
Because the point of single-tasking is to give 100% of your attention to something for an extended period of time, it’s important to give your brain a short rest after about 25 to 30 minutes. A five-minute break will actually increase your productivity for several hours afterward.
To learn more about single tasking and how it can help you be more productive, happier, and less stressed, check out Deep Work by Cal Newport