Last week we talked about how multitasking is not the productivity hack we thought and how multitasking leads to distractions and causes tasks to take longer. 

But let’s be real.  It’s more typical to multitask than it is to not.  It’s also expected of us.  Multitasking is normal in a world where people are expected to check emails and respond quickly. 

Studies have revealed that on overage, we can only work for 3 minutes before switching tasks.  Does that shock you?  

To think we will get rid of multitasking altogether is unrealistic.  However, given that we know the consequences of multitasking let’s look at the benefits of single-tasking and how we can reduce multitasking. 


Benefits of single-tasking

Those that can focus intently on one thing are at an advantage in today’s world because they will be able to get tasks done at a higher quality and in less time. 

In addition, single-tasking is less stressful.  You don’t spend extra energy switching between tasks and will be able to get into a state of flow.  You reduce your stress by finishing what you set out to do in a reasonable time period. 

You will also work on what you need to do to move your goals forward.  When we are exhausted, we tend to pick tasks that are easy for us.  Even if they are not our most important items. 

Single-tasking also lets you get creative.  When we focus on one thing at a time, we limit how much time we can spend on something.  This means you focus on finding solutions and get creative on accomplishing things quickly and effortlessly.  

Ways to reduce multitasking.

Hopefully, by now, you agree that at least trying to reduce the amount you multitask is worth the effort.  But how exactly can we do this? 

The goal is to protect your focus by setting up your day and work environment for single-tasking and focus.  This means removing triggers and distractions.   Here are five ideas to decrease multitasking.

  • Start by creating a daily schedule with time for focused work.  Your schedule should list your intentions for the day and the three non-negotiable items you must do that day.  In the scheduled focus time, start with your non-negotiable items. 

If you are used to multitasking, start with 15-20 minutes of focused work time and slowly increase it to 90 minutes if that works for you.  

  • Set times in your day to deal with email and messages.   Turn off notifications on all your devices.  Close the apps.  And during the scheduled time, review and respond as needed.  I have also recommended having an autoresponder that advises when you check your email.  This way, people don’t wait for an immediate response. 

I know it will be challenging, but consider how much you will reduce distractions.  

This is an example of “batching.”  Think of other tasks you can batch together to keep your focus on one type of activity over a more extended period of time, recurring the brain drain of switching jobs. 

  • Look for apps and tools that block websites when you want to focus.  This will help you stay focused and avoid those sites that allow you to procrastinate.  You don’t need to rely on willpower alone.  
  • Build breaks into your schedule.  I use 30, 60, and 90-minute working blocks in my day.  In between, allow for breaks.  I often walk away from my desk for at least a few minutes during my breaks.  I also take a good solid lunch break (outside if I can).  These breaks have become especially important as I work from home. 

If you want a more structured work/break schedule.  Use something like the Pomodoro technique (work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break). 

  • Finally, create a work environment that encourages focus.  Clear out clutter and reduce the noise on your desk.  Turn off notifications and try to keep your smartphones out of site. 

A final note on multitasking.

The five ideas to decrease multitasking are a start.  Some are easier to implement than others. 

For example, creating a work environment that encourages focus or creating a daily schedule might be two ideas you can start right away. Batching specific tasks like phone calls might work for you.  The key is to start small and build more and more focused work.  

Overall, multitasking decreases our focus; you can also help by introducing mindfulness into your day.  This means being more present when doing activities.  You can also consider adding meditation to your daily routines to help increase your focus. 

Do you have other ideas to increase focus and reduce multitasking?

Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at ahnd, the sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.

Alexander Graham Bell

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