Most people think they can accomplish more by tackling several tasks at once. Yet the truth has finally come to light: Multitasking is ineffective. It simply does not work.
In fact, multitasking decreases productivity by as much as 40 percent.
Attempting to multitask costs lives, derails relationships, and even shrinks the prefrontal cortext! Neuroscientists from Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and the University of London concur that multitasking is problematic, lowering IQ and interfering with brain function.
The alternative? It’s time for a breath of fresh air–singletasking.
Singletasking means being fully present and enables us to become more productive. With singletasking, tackling that to-do list can be accomplished with less effort and better results.
Use these seven simple tips to reinvent an effective and blissful singletasking lifestyle.
7 Steps to Single-Tasking
1. Accept that your brain is not built to multitask.
Multitasking is a myth; it simply does not exist. Your brain is incapable of simultaneously processing separate streams of information from multiple tasks. That’s because there’s interference between the two tasks, says MIT’s Dr. Earl Miller. What you’re really doing is task-switching–moving rapidly and ineffectively between tasks.
2. Manage extraneous thoughts quickly and systematically.
Singletasking doesn’t require you to discard distracting thoughts. Instead, it provides simple systems to set them aside until you can redirect your mind. Learn to “park” ideas in a designated spot, such as a notes page on your smartphone, and quickly return to the current endeavor.
3. Immerse yourself in one thing at a time.
Singletasking means immersing yourself in one thing at a time. Make choices and commit to them, waiting to tackle your next task after working on the existing one. You don’t have to complete every task all at once, just the period of time you need to dedicate to it.
4. Control your environment.
Build fences around potential distractions before they occur, such as noise and pop-ups. Rather than blame technology, take control of your environment. Before a conference call, put a “Quiet” Post-it note outside your door or cubicle saying you’re in a meeting. Mute all auditory pings, and turn off visual alerts and social media messaging.
5. Build up your concentration.
Do you ever meet someone and instantly forget her name? The inability to concentrate on a name or conversation is evidence of what I deem SBS–Scattered Brain Syndrome. Singletasking is both about getting things done and developing focus. Living in the present will affect the very essence of your life, career, and relationships.
Does reading and replying to texts, emails, and social media messages lure you away from more important projects? Try clustertasking–a technique of clustering related tasks into specific segments during the day. For instance, designate three times daily for emailing–the beginning, middle, and the end of your workday.
7. Carve out regular time for quiet reflection.
The average human attention span is eight seconds–one second less than the attention span of a goldfish–reports the National Center for Biotechnology Information. In a 24/7 world, your brain becomes trained to avoid quiet reflection. So next time you’re “busy” surfing the Web, ask yourself if you’re really sidestepping solitude or introspection. Carving out even 15 minutes each day to recharge can increase your overall productivity by 24 percent.
Ready to stop the madness? Starting today, you can reclaim your life, regain control and remember what really matters. Enjoy!
Devora Zack, CEO of Only Connect Consulting, Inc., is the author of three books, published globally in 25 languages. Her new release is Singletasking: Get More Done—One Thing at a Time (Berrett-Koehler). An international expert in leadership development, she is an award-winning keynote speaker, consultant and coach.