Multitasking may seem like a good way to get extra tasks done, but in reality it forces your brain to switch between tasks quickly and wastes a lot of energy and attention. Many studies have shown that focusing on a single task at a time improves our productivity, efficiency, creativity and quality of work, and decreases our stress and feelings of overwhelm. Here are some ways that you can practice focusing your attention on one task at a time:
1. Remove Distractions From Your Workspace
When possible, get rid of distractions in your workspace that can pull attention away from the task at hand. For example, try to have as few browser tabs open at a time as possible, try to keep your phone in an out-of-view place, and turn notifications off on your devices when you don't need to be connected.
The best way to turn single-tasking into habit is to practice, even when doing seemingly unimportant tasks. For example, avoiding checking your phone or doing other tasks while eating meals, watching a movie or show, sitting on the bus or going for a walk can help you break the habit of multitasking and can improve mindfulness (being "in the moment"). Another way to practice single-tasking is by focusing on listening to others while they're speaking instead of focusing on what you're going to say after.
3. Take Breaks
Focusing your attention on one task at a time is difficult, so taking breaks periodically is important to allow yourself to recharge. Taking breaks, ideally outdoors and away from screens, helps improve productivity and attention. It can be helpful to take smaller breaks (sometimes known as microbreaks) every 15-30 minutes between longer breaks, even if it's just to look away from your screens (click here to learn more about microbreaks).
4. Use a To-Do List
Break down larger tasks requiring a lot of focus into smaller, individual ones and write them in a to-do list, then try to complete them one at a time. This can help you manage your tasks, improve attention and resist the urge to multitask.
5. Set Designated Times to Check Email/Texts
Setting times designated for checking emails and texts can help you resist the urge to check while doing tasks. This is a great strategy to turn single-tasking into habit.
To learn more about single-tasking, click here.