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2.23.2015

The benefits of single-tasking

Raise your hand if you believe yourself to be an ace at multitasking…except you probably can’t raise it because you’re trying to do too many things at once! For many people, it can be easy to get caught up in a number of tasks at the same time, especially in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven environment. However, studies show multitasking can reduce productivity by up to 40 percent. By switching back and forth between a number of tasks, you are more likely to make mistakes and increase stress. Plus, research indicates that multitasking doesn’t save you time; in fact, it will likely take longer to finish tasks when you’re trying to do them at the same time versus separately.

So what is the alternative? Single-tasking, which means focusing on one issue or task at a time until it is completed. In honor of Single-Tasking Day on February 24, here are a few of the benefits of doing just one thing at a time:

  • Save Time – By focusing on just the task at hand, you will likely complete it faster than if you jumped around to multiple tasks at the same time. For example, by focusing only on completing a report instead of checking email every 10 minutes, you can be more effective and less distracted, increasing the likelihood of finishing more quickly.
  • Reduce Stress – Honing in on one task at a time allows you to complete it more quickly, but also with fewer errors, which can help decrease stress. Jumping back and forth to your email while trying to finish an important project will only increase your anxiety and stress because you’re trying to juggle too many things at once without letting any fall.
  • Improve Creativity ­– When you are trying to complete too many things at once, studies show that your brain doesn’t have the ability to think outside the box. By shifting your focus to one task at a time, you are more likely to notice things going on around you and think creatively about the current issue at hand.
  • Connect and Engage – We’ve all done it – checked our email or other updates on our phone while having a conversation with a friend or loved one. It’s tough to be fully present in the moment when you are also checking movie times, responding to an email or finding out which friend updated their status. When you set the phone down and truly engage with the person you are with, you are more likely to connect and have a meaningful discussion.

Now that you know the benefits of single-tasking, how can you get started? Here are a few simple tips to help you leave multitasking behind:

  • Dedicate specific times to email. This may not always be realistic, but when possible, try to wait until those times so that you can truly focus on the project you are working on without distraction.
  • Keep tabs to a minimum. We’ve all fallen into the black hole of the internet – opening tab after tab as things strike you, but this can lead to further distractions and reduced productivity. Only open sites you need for the current task to help you focus.
  • Take a break from your phone. At the end of the day, put the phone away so you can fully engage with those around you and reduce distractions that often pull you away.
  • Make a to-do list. This can help you manage what you need to do but visualize tackling one at a time. Just make sure it is realistic so you don’t get overwhelmed and try to jump back into multitasking.

How Health Advocate Can Help

If you are a Health Advocate member with access to our EAP+Work/Life Program, give us a call! We can connect you to one of our Work/Life counselors, who can help you establish a single-tasking plan to improve your focus and reduce your stress.