One Thing at a Time – SingleTasking. Do it!

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Multi-tasking VS Single-tasking– who wins this round? If you Google (isn’t it funny how we use “Google” as a verb now?) ‘multitasking’ you will get 5,190,000 results while 543,000 for ‘singletasking’. It is quite evident that many of us are still clinging on to the concept known as multitasking to increase productivity, or whatever… While you may call yourself, or others may call you the ultimate multitasked, you tend to feel unproductive. Perhaps your brain needs to take a chill pill.

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If you have read the article Is Multitasking Actually a Myth?, you will realize that multitasking is actually impossible. Studies show that the brain can only focus on one thing at a time. Period. Multitasking isn’t something that can be learned or practiced, it’s actually done by making the brain do one activity for a short period of time, switch gears, then making the brain do another. Rinse and repeat. It all happens so quickly that it seems instantaneous, but in fact, it isn’t. The small amount of time it takes for our brain to switch from one activity to another is similar to switching car gears — well, except that when you switch from task 1 to task n, your focus will end up going back to the first task, making you start over and over again every time you switch. It may sound great if you’re the masochistic type, but unfortunately, multitasking is unhealthy for your brain. Stanford University researchers found out that multitasking will make you use your brain less efficient by 40%. Think about it, the more errors or missed information, the more additional workload!

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Instead of switching tasks, try switching to single-tasking. It’s more productive, less stressful on the brain and it will keep you sane, we hope… It’s actually easy, as long as you have the right mindset then you’re good to go. Remember that the key to single-tasking is focus – one task at a time. Schedule your day — be organized. Diminish distractions from your workplace and be selective when responding to crises. There are apps that will help you stay focused, such as Self Control and Concentrate.

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Work saner and simpler by NOT multitasking. Live life to the fullest while being efficient because single-tasking is better than multi-tasking! As Alexander Graham Bell once said, ‘concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought into focus.’ You may have a hard time at first, especially when you’re used to juggling all tasks at once, but rest assured — it’s worth all the practice (the single-tasking, not the juggling… although that has it’s own benefits!). Start now by taking the first step — which is giving yourself permission to do one thing at a time. And take breaks. You can’t have an meaningful life if you don’t enjoy it, so stay sane and single-task – also, go outside, breathe in some fresh air and stretch (or fly). Enjoy the now!

Adnan Iftekhar

3 Comments

  1. I know from experience that multi-tasking just slows me down and results in more work. Although I think our modern lifestyle and school systems expect multi-tasking from us. I guess spreading the word about the benefit of single-tasking is the first step to changing things. Thanks for doing that!

    • Thanks for your comment! Yes, I totally agree – I just downloaded and am using Self Control to help me be single task-minded on the computer. Life does have a way of interfering though – especially as I’m on paternity with my 6 month old! 🙂

  2. You’re preaching to the choir, but this feels a little like a conversation I just had about Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants. My kids interact with technology differently than I do, and seem to be able to process in parallel (music, chat, homework) in a way that is simply maddening to me. There’s no question that single-tasking is more productive, but I’m open to the possibility that their minds can work more efficiently than mine in a multi-tasking situation.