One Thing At A Time...

We all know by now that multitasking is not effective.  Yet, we keep doing it and seems REALLY HARD to focus on one thing at a time.  Singletasking on the other hand, seems kind of boring.

In his research for his article "What Multitasking Does To Our Brains", Leo Widrich discovered some interesting stuff.  Multitasking makes us feel good.  It is emotionally more satisfying to multitask and it gives us the illusion that we are incredibly efficient and effective when the opposite is true.  Also, it looks good to be juggling a million things at a time--we all want to be some version of Superwomen, but our daily output actually goes down.

Our brain can't multitask at all.  When we insist on doing that, it frantically switches from one activity to another, creating "split brain" or "spotlights".  Initially researchers thought that multitasking would help up develop some superperson skills like being incredibly good at filtering information, switching between tasks quickly and keeping a high working memory.  In fact, it turns out multitasking is very bad for us and that we perform very poorly all around.


Here are a few things you can do to combat this bad habit, get more productive and feel more accomplished!

  1. Single task habit.  If you are working on the computer, only work on your emails, then switch to update your Facebook account, then write your new ezine article.  And ignore the emails that are coming in and the FB pings while you are doing something else.  No switching!!!
  2. Evening or morning planning and brainstorming routine:  Sit down every evening or morning and make your plan for the day.  It's your simple to-do list that you have probably done before and then didn't stick to...  So here's a twist Widrich recommends and I have done myself for some time now and find way more effective:  make your list, and then find a colleague, partner, friend, spouse and talk it through with them.  Adding this little extra puts your brain on the path of already doing it and by the time you start you already feel like you are engaged.
  3. Location, Location, Location...:  Change your work location at least once a day.  I move around after each significant task I finish and restart fresh after a small break in a new spot.  Some companies have gone as far as putting their employees' desks on rollers to make that possible.
  4. Schedule 3 Power Hours per week:  Especially for those daunting tasks that you just can't seem to get done.  3 times/week block out an hour, and during that hour, split your time into 3 short blocks for different projects.  Stay supremely focussed for 15-20 minutes at a time and power through some big chunks.

You'll be surprised how much less scattered you feel after practicing this for a while.  ONE THING AT A TIME!!!