If you want to sharpen your focus, increase your productivity, and make work-related tasks flow more efficiently, single-tasking may be the key to your success. Single-tasking, or monotasking, involves breaking away from the constant influx of information and training your attention on one specific task at a time instead of trying to do everything at once. With digital distractions demanding your attention and deadlines looming, slowing down can be a challenge, but the benefits of single-tasking make the effort well worth it.
The Multitasking Myth
When it comes to getting things done, multitasking gets too much credit. According to a National Bureau of Economic Research study from 2010, multitasking slows down production and creates backlogs instead of making you more efficient, and true multitasking might not even be possible. While the brain is capable of handling a few simple tasks at once, such as eating and listening to music, more complex tasks can’t be done simultaneously. Instead, the brain shifts between tasks, lowering your productivity and increasing the likelihood of mistakes on one or more of your projects. Many people who multitask don’t even realize how bad they are at juggling projects. One of the worst problems for multitaskers is they end up training their brains not to focus, making it more difficult to concentrate on something.
The Benefits of Single-Tasking
Single-tasking helps you regain your ability to focus and ensures the work you produce is error-free. Stress levels go down when you switch from multitasking to single-tasking, and you might find you’re more creative and energetic. The ability to singletask and ignore everything else also benefits your brain in long-term ways. A study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute found that older adults who learned to focus and filter out irrelevant material made better decisions than those who got distracted easily.
Training Your Brain to Singletask
The first step to learning how to singletask is to break away from information overload. Limiting your computer browser to one tab at a time, silencing your phone and turning off notifications while you work, restricting email use to a specific time of day, and using a social media blocker to keep yourself offline are all strategies that prevent multitasking. To-do lists, planners, and calendars help you organize your day so you know in advance where to focus your attention. Once you eliminate the distractions that prevent single-tasking, train your brain to focus on a single task for increasing periods of time. Start by setting a timer for 10 to 15 minutes and using that time to concentrate on a single task. Build up to 25- or 30-minute focus sessions, taking five minute breaks between sessions to relax and recharge your mind. Attempting to focus for longer periods without a break leads to burnout. Single-tasking frees you from the need to accomplish everything at once while helping you get more done in your day. Train your mind to focus without distractions and leave the inefficiencies of multitasking behind forever.