Single-Task for Success — Death to Multi-Tasking

The end of the juggle struggle.

set the juggling balls down.
While on a conference call I have at least 3 open email replies, 4 people pinging me, I’ve got a pen where I’m writing notes of more things I have to do, Outlook dings to let me know MORE messages have hit my inbox, someone is texting me, I’ve got a few social media windows open and some news articles I wanted to read and someone just stopped by to see if I had “a minute”.

Does that sound familiar? I bet it does. We’ve been told over and over again about how doing MORE all at once is BETTER and just like that whole fat-free fad it’s a lie.

Multi-tasking is not a skill to be endorsed on.

Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT states that we’re “not wired to multitask well… When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.”

So what do you do when you have SO much to do that you can’t imagine just doing one thing at a time?

Imagine this: You’re on the edge of a dock, your toes have curled the edge of the wood planks, the water is clear and pristine and you know it’s going to feel cold and refreshing. There’s a lot of anticipation, a bit of fear and then you jump in and the relief of the fresh water and the accomplishment of making the leap has you feeling truly alive. Single tasking can have that exact same feeling.

Put it in a list. Do one thing. Then the next thing. Repeat.

Step One: Make note of all the things you have open that you need to action on put it in a list or a file on your computer. I like paper because I like the great satisfaction of crossing things off the list.

Step Two: Close everything you have open and TURN OFF Notifications. That outlook message indicator is BAD NEWS for single-tasking and productivity.

Step Three: Evaluate the list and do the biggest thing first. It’s called eating the frog and we’re going to talk more about this next week but if you do this today next week you’ll be full of head nods.

Step Four: Decline calls that you would multi-task through. If you don’t need to be ALL there than you can catch up in the meeting notes. You’ve probably just freed up a lot of time and enabled your team in a meaningful way.

Step Five: Do the next thing. Followed by the next thing. As your brain pulls you to multi-task write down the thing that you felt compelled to do but DO NOT DO IT. Stick to the item at hand until it can be crossed off.

I offer you a 100% guarantee that by the end of the day you’ll have accomplished WAY more than you would have multi-tasking, you’ll feel less frenzied, your work product will be much stronger and you’ll feel refreshed.

Do this for 8 business days and you’ll find yourself ALL IN on single tasking.

Head to the comments and share your stress, success and your “I’m going to give it a try even though I’m VERY worried that I will be working until midnight!”