Listening on the phone while texting someone else? Attending a conference while emailing? You may think you are getting a lot more done by doing several things at once, but in fact, you’re not. What you are really doing is shifting your focus back and forth between tasks, and by doing so it takes time for your brain to refocus. As a result, this “multitasking” can actually reduce your productivity as much as 40 percent, studies show. So if you really want to get more done, focus on “single-tasking”—doing ONE thing at a time. Here are the benefits:
Save time. For example, by focusing only on completing a report instead of also checking email every 10 minutes, you can be more effective and less distracted, increasing the likelihood of finishing more quickly.
Make fewer mistakes. Jumping back and forth to your email while trying to finish an important project will only increase the chances of errors, which in turn will increase your anxiety and stress in the long run.
Spark creativity. Your brain needs some room to think outside of the box and you can’t do that when you are trying to juggle too many things at once. By focusing on 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.
Deepen connections. 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. 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 remember to 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.
For Health Advocate members
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 Specialists, who can help you establish a single-tasking plan to improve your focus and reduce your stress.