In an era where technology is running the world, it’s common to see a person walking with their head down, looking at their phone, texting a friend, checking their email, or scrolling through social media sites. With busy and demanding lifestyles, multitasking becomes a need or sometimes an addiction. According to Peter Bregman’s article, How (and Why) to Stop Multitasking, “Multitasking leads to as much as a 40% drop in productivity.” To get things done in an effective and timely manner, end the multitasking cycle and begin single-tasking instead.
If you’ve always considered multitasking a positive attribute, you’re not alone. Most people think that by multitasking they get more accomplished. In fact, multitasking is a commonly requested attribute in modern job descriptions. However, as author Julie Morgenstern said in an interview with Forbes, “It has been scientifically demonstrated that the brain cannot effectively or efficiently switch between tasks, so you lose time. It takes four times longer to recognize new things, so you’re not saving time; multitasking actually costs time.” In order to fully focus on the task at hand, you must be able to put forth your best work by being focused with no distractions.
By bouncing between different tasks, you lose valuable time and are less efficient. Dr. David Meyer, a cognitive scientist at the University of Michigan who specializes in multitasking explains, “For tasks that are at all complicated, no matter how good you have become at multitasking, you’re still going to suffer hits against your performance. You will be worse compared to if you were actually concentrating from start to finish on the task.” By working on one assignment at a time, you’re able to zone in on one certain topic or task with no distractions, which will enable you to put forth your best work.
5 Ways You Can Become a Better Single-Tasker
1. Keep track of your tasks: The best way to do this is to create a calendar and write down all of your tasks, meetings, and presentations on the days they are due. This will keep you on track without any second-guessing. A calendar is also a great visual tool because you can literally see when due dates are approaching.
2. Prioritize: Complete all tasks that have the closest deadlines first. This will ensure you do not miss due dates and can help you fully concentrate on the task at hand. Prioritizing keeps you focused and, as a result, you become more efficient (and successful) in the workplace.
3. Silence electronics: Maintain focus on your work by putting your phone on silent and out of sight. If you’re working on a computer, only keep windows you need visible. During breaks, check your email or social media pages instead of going back and forth during work hours. This will help keep distractions to a minimum.
4. Stay organized: A study conducted at Princeton University’s Neuroscience Institute explains, “Clutter makes you distracted and unable to process information as well as you do in an uncluttered, organized, and serene environment.” To be the most effective at work, your desk should be clean with papers filed, folders labeled and distractions at a minimum. This not only keeps everything systematized, but also provides a subconscious sense of peace while you’re at work.
5. Take breaks throughout the day: You might be surprised how much of a difference it makes to get up and walk around or take a trip to the cafeteria to eat your snack. Breaking up your day will give the brain time to relax and your eye muscles time to ease. Then, when you get back to work, you’ll feel refreshed, energized and ready to tackle your next assignment.
If you are overwhelmed with a long to do list and feel the need to multitask, take a second to slow down and remember you are only making it harder for yourself to focus on getting things done. By following these five steps, you’ll find that you can get more accomplished in a timely manner, without the need to multitask.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Lost time is never found again.” This statement certainly rings true for time lost while attempting to multitask. So, don’t squander your valuable time trying to complete multiple tasks at once. Instead, practice single-tasking whenever possible and it will become a habit!
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