In a world obsessed with multitasking and juggling a million things at once in the name of productivity, is single tasking really a viable option?
In short – yes.
Single tasking has been proven time and time again to be the best way to get stuff done. #SlowLiving anyone?
This article will arm you with the right knowledge and tools to make single tasking work for you. It’s easy when you know how.
What is single tasking?
Single tasking, believe it or not, is the act of focusing your entire attention on one single task. It is the polar opposite of multitasking and truth be told, it is a far superior method of productivity.
Single tasking will help you to get stuff done. Period.
What’s in it for me?
There’s a whole load of good stuff in it for you as it turns out. I’m lazy, so here’s the top 3. These are the only benefits you need to be fair so don’t hate on me. Cheers.
When you block out all distractions and focus your energy on one single task, you allow yourself to produce your very best work without flitting between tasks.
Apparently we can only work for 40-ish seconds before we’re distracted, that is absolute madness. Can you believe that stat? I couldn’t either until I actually thought about it.
Picture the scene, you’re sat at your desk…
“Ooo an email!”
“Oh hello colleague that has come over for a random chat”
“Ah let me just have a quick look at the weather…and a bit of news…oh my lord Gemma Collins did what?”
And so the cycle continues. Once you’re able to single task, these distractions cease to exist. They go away and never come back to haunt you again…for the most part.
Because you’re actually getting work done and blocking out unimportant tasks, you become a stress free buddha. Well maybe not that zen but because you have prioritised work and aren’t trying to split your time between so many tasks, you become safe in the knowledge that you’re attacking the most important thing and other (less important) tasks will get their turn later.
This absolute organisational #goals is what makes single tasking such a stress-free experience.
Better solutions to harder problems
When you multitask, your mind is spread so thinly that you can’t concentrate on one problem at a time. You’re constantly trying to process about 10 consecutive problems whilst attempting (terribly) to find solutions that are more than likely, rather subpar.
When you single task, your entire mind is focused on the problem at hand. You can give all of your attention to finding the best solution and your head isn’t battered with needless stresses.
This clarity has helped me develop and write up a faeces-tonne of articles over the past couple of years. Simply taking a bit of time to meditate on an issue can be such an effective way to improve the quality of your work exponentially.
How to single task effectively
You’ve been armed with all the juicy benefits, now it’s time to find out how you can actually implement single tasking into your life.
Get a schedule
This is the easiest thing you can do to single task.
Set yourself time blocks throughout the day. These blocks should be split into things you want to accomplish. For instance, I do 30 minutes of physical activity in the morning, followed by 2 hours of writing, then an hour to do emails and Instagram posts, comments, etc., then it’s lunch, THEN I’ll block off some more time for writing again, freelance work and so on.
Try to block at least 4 hours of pure single tasking throughout your day. Outside of this can be anything you god damn please but during those 4 hours you should do nothing but focus on the task at hand.
I guarantee you that you’ll get more done in those 4 hours than multitaskers will get done in 4 days. They look and feel busy but they’re not really, they’re just spinning their wheels in multiple directions.
Single tasking gets stuff done, multitasking just gives the illusion that you’re getting stuff done. Make your choice.
Put that phone away & block those pesky emails
We all know that phones are the devil incarnate but to what extent to they affect our productivity?
Well if you have you have your phone in the room with you, it creates an effect which I can’t for the life of me remember the name of BUT it gives you an almost twitch-like reflex to go and grab it to check for notifications.
The dopamine hit you get from these notifications is what keeps us coming back to our pocket-sized enslavers so the best thing you can do is put your phone wayyyy out of reach.
I work from home so I just pop the phone in another room and check it every hour or two for calls and messages. You can try and push it up to 5 hours eventually and see how you cope – it gets a whole lot easier over time.
Once you’ve navigated this hurdle, your single tasking becomes a breeze. Add to that an extension for your web browser and you’ve got a potent combo. I use Blocksite to block emails, football news sites, social media and my biggest and most embarrassing addiction – Miniclip 8-Ball pool…don’t click that link, you might get sucked in too.
Putting these little barriers in the way of these productivity drainers is such an effective method. The amount of times I’ve mindlessly typed those sites in my browser for a little break after an ENTIRE 3 minutes of writing is unfathomable. Thankfully, this extension gives me a telling off and I realise that it’s work time, not mindless scrolling time.
This is your most important step so DO IT PLZ.
Guard your time
I’ve talked about this before but you have to be ruthless with your time. Your team want a meeting for a ‘catchup and chat’? Bugger off. Same goes for needless coffee lunches with people you don’t really need to see.
If someone asks you to help them out with some work that doesn’t involve you and you don’t have the time, DON’T DO IT. The quicker you stop trying to people please by taking on too many tasks, the quicker your head will stop being full of thoughts of killing your boss and butchering 87% of your co-workers.
Put an auto-reply on your email that tells people you only check it once per day. If they need you urgently they can call your work phone (a phone with no apps, simply for urgent calls), if it not then it can wait. I learnt that trick from the main man Tim Ferriss – click on his lovely name to find loads more ‘life hacks’.
Single tasking. It’s easier than you think.
Once you stop trying to do everything (sub-optimally) at once and focus all your energy into one area of development, you’ll see the best results in terms of productivity – and life in general – that you could possibly wish for.
Go forth and prosper young padawan.