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Singletasking & the Multi-Tasking Myth

Singletasking & the Multi-Tasking Myth

The concept of singletasking is likely new to you. At its core, it relates to the notion of focus. In that, it forces you to devote particular focus into singular tasks – whether those tasks be work related or otherwise. It intends to abolish the behaviours and thought processes that surround the ‘myth’ of multitasking. Essentially, it is aimed at enabling you to achieve all that you want, in an efficient, stress-free and effective manner.

If you are at all familiar with the business world, then a concept such as singletasking might seem alien. Not only is it expected of you to be able to be able to multitask, it’s almost impossible not to. The idea of having to focus all your energy into a single task at a time might seem like it’s a recipe for productivity loss and inefficiency. However, this is hardly the case.

In fact, multitasking simply does not work. You might know this from firsthand experience, but understanding both the ineffectiveness and true impossibility of multitasking isn’t a new phenomenon. Research has shown that multitasking decreases your productivity by up to 40%. Furthermore, not only does it contribute to lowering your productivity, it can lead to a lower IQ, increased stress levels and increases your chances at making errors.

Our brains are in no way designed to do more than one task at a time. Multitasking claims to enable you to perform tasks simultaneously, although in actual fact whilst you think you are ‘multitasking’, your brain is erratically switching from one task to the next. No matter the number of tasks you are completing at once, your brain is only focused on one of those tasks at a time. For example, whilst you are responding to emails and talking on the phone, your brain can either use its resources to type emails or talk on the phone. But never both.

Frequently switching between tasks, overloads the brain and makes you feel less efficient. You are essentially setting yourself up for failure as you are then more prone to error, and you are not engaging in deep, focused thought on the specific task.

Even those of us who are aware of the true ineffectiveness of multitasking, still cannot seem to break the habit and stop the thought processes that go along with it. Singletasking does not cross our minds when we get bogged down in our work, as it is simply not a concept that fits in well with the view of hard work that is consistently imposed on us. We so often find ourselves in environments that mistakenly place such high value on multitasking and the perception that the more you can do at once, the more intelligent, efficient and hardworking you are. It only makes sense then that the notion of singletasking doesn’t even cross our mind as a potential solution – it can easily seem like an almost ridiculous proposition.

Aligning your thoughts with the common myths that multitasking is a good workout for your brain, it leads to high productivity, it’s a sign of intelligence etc. is highly damaging. It negatively impacts your health, as well as your ability to work, and work well.

If you want to master the art of working well, singletasking is a great concept to adopt. It obliges you to do one thing at a time. It ensures you stand firm and commit to your choices, and allows you to get things done. The notion of ‘focus’ goes hand in hand with singletasking, and this focus can extend far past your work life. Adopting a mind frame that forces you to live in the present will affect almost every aspect of your life, including work, relationships, sense of self etc.

Singletasking can also carry a connotation of being stifling, the idea that you must focus your energy on one task at a time can seem like it makes for a slower paced, less creative and more robotic work ethic. This is quite far from the truth. Multitasking is the true culprit of the development of these undesirable traits, as you become a shell of yourself who is never truly engaging with their full potential and isn’t devoting passion, intensive thought and time into any task no matter how large or small it may be. By enabling you to focus, singletasking allows you to engage and set fire to those parts of your brain- i.e. creativity, drive and innovation- that you would have otherwise made no use of.

Singletasking is also a great way to become more comfortable being left alone with your own thoughts. Doing so aids in building your attention span, which can easily be reduced by way of modern technology and a multitasking mindset. Don’t be afraid to dive headfirst into introspection and solitude, often this is where the best ideas come from and the times where the best work is done.

Listed below are some quick tips on how to kick-start your singletasking habit:

  • Give your brain some time to wind down

You will be far more productive if you step away from mentally challenging tasks for a few minutes each day. Whether you get some fresh air, or have a quick chat to a colleague, taking a break will do wonders in terms of helping you remain inspired. Slowing the mind down allows you to eliminate a lot of the noise that can cloud your innovation and creativity.

  • Focus and remove distractions

Put your phone away, mute notifications and do your best to only perform one task at a time. You don’t have to make the jump all at once, but even short intervals a day where you are devoted to staying focused will undoubtedly aid in increasing your accuracy, innovation and speed whilst working.

  • Prioritize

Make a list and then identify your top two priorities for that day. Give them your most productive time slot, whether it be first thing in the morning, or just before lunch, giving the most important tasks the lion’s share of your brains productive time will increase your overall productivity for the day. It allows you to weed out those time-wasting tasks and schedule them in for a time that you can afford to not be performing at 100%.