6 tips to finding success by focusing on one task at a time
Do you pride yourself on being a talented multi-tasker? Well, a new study says that may be an illusion. The study, conducted by Stanford University, says that multitasking may be detrimental to not only your brain, but also your ability to get things done faster and more efficiently.
Surprisingly, researchers found multitasking is actually less productive than doing one task at a time. Participants who were faced with too many tasks at once – such as electronic notifications, emails, cell phones, and work tasks – weren’t able to truly focus or pay attention properly. Their ability to recall vital information or switch from one job to another suffered compared to people who completed one single task at a time.
Do some people have a special knack for multitasking?
Ironically, people who were avid multitaskers – and believed they were, therefore, more productive – were worse multitaskers than the participants who completed one single task at a time. This result was caused, in part, by the avid multitaskers’ inability to efficiently organize their thoughts or filter out unnecessary information.
The art of single tasking is not an easy habit to master – especially in this day and age. Each day we’re consumed with how much work we can generate and complete, and how many boxes we can check off our “to do” list. Most of all, we’re obsessed with how many of these activities we can accomplish at once.
Now that we know that multitasking is less efficient than single-tasking, how can we take the steps to stop this bad habit? Here are six ideas to get started:
Start a meditation practice.
Focusing on only one thing can be a definite challenge. With our five senses constantly being bombarded, it’s tough to buckle down and develop a pointed focus. Meditation is a practice. Keep practicing, and your concentration on one thing will improve. Make a conscious effort to focus on one thing at a time … that’s meditation!
If you only want to focus on one thing, how can you possibly do that with clutter? If your room, office or even your desk is messy, it can be a constant distraction. Before you start on your single-tasking journey, take time to thoroughly clean your environment. Feng shui-ing your space is, in turn, clearing your mind.
Set your priorities.
Ask yourself, “What is the most important thing I need to accomplish right now?” Make a to-do list, and then cut it down to about five items per day. Any more can lead to a sense of overwhelm and defeat. When you complete your list, number the tasks from 1-5, in order of importance. Then you can move forward with each task. Make sure to complete one task before you move on to the next.
If something comes to your mind, keep a pad of paper to the side to jot down reminders for later, instead of jumping on your email or phone. When you get a phone call, let it go to voicemail if it’s not urgent. If you’re in a chaotic environment, use earplugs or even some headphones to stay focused.
Move often, take breaks and breathe a lot.
Single-tasking doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take breaks. Stay on the task at hand, but allow your body to move freely, get up and even get into a downward dog or two! Taking mindful walks can help. Pay attention to the breath, your body and nature. Moving your physical body can clear mental clutter and improve creativity and productivity. Don’t forget: there’s nothing more effective than a deep, full, cleansing breath to bring us back to the present moment.
Make it a daily practice.
You may fall off the wagon and slip back into your multi-tasking tendencies. But remember, it’s not going to make you complete your tasks any faster. As with meditation, ease of single-tasking comes with a dedicated practice.
Single-tasking is the new multi-tasking. We simply have to rewire our programming. It’s not cool to try to do three people’s jobs at once, as though you have three heads and six arms. Because energetically that is what you’re doing to yourself – pulling yourself in way too many directions to remain sane. Modern day multi-tasking skills are getting us nowhere fast. Mindfulness and single-tasking leads to more quality work, increased peace, less stress and more happiness.
So, the next time you decide to split your awareness on 10,000 things, remember to do one thing at a time.
Edited and republished with permission from the original publication at https://spiritualityhealth.com/blogs/heart-health/2015/10/18/bess-oconnor-mindfulness-lives-single-tasking