Single-Task Your Way to Productivity

By Siew Ching

Multi-tasking is so yesterday. Now, it’s all about being focused on just one task at a time.

In our fast-paced, technology-driven world, multi-tasking has become a badge of honour. From juggling emails during meetings to scrolling through reports while listening to a presentation, the ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously is often celebrated as a hallmark of efficiency and productivity.

But notice how when you pile on so much work at one go, your anxiety and stress levels go up that you’re doing less? Or that you don’t really pay attention to what’s going on? That’s the main grouse when it comes to multi-tasking, that lack of focus and more chances to make mistakes when you’ve not dedicated your time and attention to just one task. When you are trying to do it all, your attention spans are shorter than ever. And when you take on too much, you burnout faster – completely the opposite of what you want to achieve! Simply put, multi-tasking is a quick and easy way to drain your brain power, which can significantly impede our performance and mental well-being.

In fact, studies by the American Psychological Association (APA) and Stanford University have shown that multitasking can lower productivity by up to 40%, increase error rates, and even lower IQ scores temporarily. Our brains are simply not wired to handle multiple complex tasks at the same time.

This is where single-tasking comes into play – focusing on just one thing at a time. With single-tasking, you’ve set out to complete one task before you do the next. This way, you are not pulled in different directions trying to do it all.

Here are more benefits of single-tasking:
Improved Focus: Single-tasking allows you to concentrate better on the task at hand, improving focus and attention to detail.
Increased Productivity: The real reason why you’re reading this. Single-tasking could be the key to productivity as it allows you to complete tasks more efficiently and with higher quality without distractions.
Reduced Stress: Let’s get real – juggling multiple things can be stressful. But when you only pay attention to one thing, you are more calm and not easily overwhelmed.
Better Problem Solving: When all the above are in place, you’re able to approach your problems with a clearer and more focused mindset. That’s the ultimate goal, right?
Higher Quality Work: When attention is divided, so are your efforts. Wouldn’t it be better to put in 100% of your efforts to achieve 100%?

Ready to take on single-tasking? Here’s how you can start.
#1 Prioritise
With multi-tasking, everything is important. But when it comes to single-tasking, you have to pick a single task you want to prioritise and work on. So forget that long to-do list. Instead, just put three things on your list – one to work on in morning, one in the afternoon, and one more if you have anytime left to spare. Pick by order of priority so you can properly allocate more time to what’s important and the rest to things that can wait while you complete the first task.

#2 Minimise distractions
Creating the right environment is pivotal for single-tasking to work. Design your workspace to eliminate distraction. Set ‘Do Not Disturb’ messages if you need to put in 100% focus and attention into an important task. You may even want to consider turning off your phone (or just putting it far, far away so you can’t reach out to start scrolling) and turning off email notifications.

#3 Break down your big tasks into smaller, manageable chunks
Wait, isn’t this like multi-tasking? Not quite. You’re still focusing your attention to one big task but you’re breaking it down into different sections so you know where to start and when to end. Complete one section at a time and then the final picture will fall into place.

#4 Take breaks
The thing with single-tasking is you can be sucked into the task and that can also drain your brain power. With all things at work, you need to take a break from your single-tasking to come back more refreshed and energised to continue. Schedule your time – set 20 minutes of single-tasking and then take a 10-minute break. Keep doing this to ensure your concentration doesn’t wane and you can work efficiently towards completing your task and still have energy at the end of the day.

Photo by Matt Ragland on Unsplash.

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