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Single-Tasking: The Sane Alternative to Multitasking


What do you do when you're answering emails and suddenly the phone rings? Do you answer it and try to speak to the person while you finish your emails? Maybe you're working from home and then the doorbell rings. Do you go to the door while still on the phone? You have some decisions to make. We live in a world where multitasking is commonplace. But is it the most efficient use of our time?


The Multitasking Myth

A number of states have already made it illegal to talk on your cell phone and drive at the

same time. Some states won't even allow you to drive and eat at the same time! These laws

are based on the fact that if your focus is divided, accidents are more likely to happen.

Recent studies have also shown that when people are forced to change gears in

the middle of a task, valuable time is lost. The more complex the task, the more time

is lost. The lost time is the time that's usually spent by the frontal lobe of your brain making

decisions and establishing priorities. When you multitask, rather than getting a lot more accomplished, you'll find that the quality of your work diminishes significantly while important tasks actually take longer!


Single-Tasking: the Alternative

Just for argument's sake, try spending one day where all you do is focus all your energy on

one task at a time. You may be surprised to discover that you're making significantly more

progress than usual as you tackle one job at a time without interruption.


Without interruption? Perhaps you're thinking, That's easier said than done.

If so, here are some tips to help you gain the advantage of single-tasking:

1. Create a to-do list. Have categories on the list for home, work, etc. Write the items

on your list in order of priority. Organizing your tasks will help you see everything you have to do and give you a definite place to start.

2. Keep a notebook handy. If ideas for another task come while you're working on

something else, jot them down quickly so you can continue concentrating on your

current project. You won't have to worry about forgetting your ideas and thoughts

later.

3. Tune out distractions. Organizing your tasks will help you see everything you have to do and give you a definite place to start. If you feel the urge to check your email, simply take a deep breath and continue working. Don't worry; your email is not going anywhere! It will still be there in the same place when you finish your current task.

4. Plan your day in blocks of time. Depending on the number of tasks you have to do

this can be in hour-long blocks, or just 20 minutes. Make sure you leave some blocks open for unexpected situations that may arise.

5. Every now and then, take inventory. When you've completed a task successfully

and have a few minutes to spare, use that time to check your inbox for any new

situations that may have come up.You can then re-prioritize your to-do list if necessary.


Single-tasking might take some time to get used to, especially if you're accustomed to

working on multiple projects at one time. However, focusing your efforts on a single

task will help you think more clearly and determine what steps must be completed.


This is by no means an exhaustive list of ideas but these tips will help you get started with

single-tasking. Multitasking can be very stressful. Wouldn't it be nice to make your life a little

less chaotic? Single-tasking can do a world of good for your emotional, mental, and

even physical well-being.


The Truth About Media Multitasking

If you want to hold onto your brain cells, you may need to change your media habits.

Focusing on one task at a time is good for your health. That’s the lesson from a recent university study that found that using multiple devices at once was linked to a loss of brain tissue. Previous studies have found that chronic multitasking can weaken your attention span, memory, emotional intelligence, and social skills. Protect your grey matter by doing less and accomplishing more. Try these additional tips for becoming more single-minded.


Resist Media Multitasking

Ironically, multitasking feels good in the short term. It’s stimulating and satisfying to

cross multiple items off your to do list. You may need some support to help change

your habits.


Try these strategies to break the chains that bind you:

1. Understand how your brain works. Media multitasking is problematic because

you’re doing complex tasks that draw on the same resources. For example, it’s

better to avoid talking with your child’s teacher and reading the financial pages

at the same time because both require your full attention.

2. Shut off your phone. Remove the temptation to check your messages. Power

off your phone, tablet, and other devices for a couple of hours a day.

3. Post your hours. Maybe you’re concerned that others expect you to be

accessible throughout the day. Let them know in advance when they can reach

you and when you’ll be offline.

4. Schedule breaks. You’re more likely to multitask when you’re losing interest in

something. Set an alarm on your phone and take a 10 minute breather each hour to avoid the temptation to multitask.

5. Do a status check. Catch yourself when you’re researching medical symptoms

and editing a marketing proposal at the same time. Slow down. Switch to doing

one thing at a time.

6. Alternate between activities. You can still juggle multiple responsibilities and

pastimes. Arrange your workday so that you update your database or clean up

your files in between calling clients. If you’ve been cleaning all morning, take a walk before you start the laundry.

7. Think long term. You’ll avoid multitasking when you keep the long term

consequences in mind. Imagine how much you’ll enjoy thinking more clearly and

having increased energy.


"I don't have to do everything and be everything."

My life is so much more relaxed and pleasurable when I learned how to let go of the need to

do everything myself. In addition, I actually enjoy more success when I let others handle some of the tasks and responsibility! It's a beautiful thing and I need to to stay well.

I take time to relax, exercise, and meditate, which all contribute to helping me be the best I can be. Doing so refreshes me, releases stress, and recharges my energy. I can

then tackle the things I want to do with renewed vigor and passion.


Try this today at work:

Plan to delegate effectively, knowing that in refraining from trying to do everything and be everything, you are setting yourself up for greater success throughout the day.


Self-Reflection Questions for Work:

1. Do I ask others for help?

2. How can I delegate some of my current responsibilities?

3. Do I arrange my schedule so I have time for myself?


Try this today at home:

Dedicate a few minutes to yourself. Choose to maintain both your physical and mental health. Indulging in a little "me" time is the best remedy to stress.


Self-Reflection Questions for Home:

1. Do I take on too much responsibility because I find it challenging to say "no?"

2. Is my work life invading my personal time?

3. Which responsibilities can I efficiently and economically delegate?

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