I used to think I thrived on multi-tasking. Having a massive to-do list, with so many boxes to tick, so many deadlines to fill in a day; it brought out the best in me in terms of my productivity. That’s what I thought when I started my current job. At first, I pushed passed the warning signs; multi-tasking was inherent in me and I was good at it. Six months in, however, I was worn out. With so many task lists, I was frazzled, exhausted and unhappy. I was getting items ticked off but each task done only left me with twenty more to do. Stress mounted. So, I had to take a step back. I couldn’t go and make drastic changes to my schedule, but I could start small.
“It’s the small changes that can drastically alter your life” – that’s what a friend told me. So, I decided to start taking things one day at a time. And it was one of the most effective small changes I’ve ever made. Productivity experts call this “single-tasking” and it’s an approach that has been proven to reduce stress, increase productivity, and improve focus and decision-making as well as keeping your brain healthy. It wasn’t easy to kick my multi-tasking habit, especially as for so long, it was seen as the modern way to get things done but it’s a brain-drainer.
However, the good thing is, single-tasking is The Thing, it’s seen as the ultimate productivity tool; forcing yourself to focus on the task at hand to the exclusion of everything else.
It takes a concerted effort to leave the chaotic addiction of multi-tasking behind, but the benefits are immediate; it will increase your creativity, energy and focus throughout the working day. And if you’re still struggling to get the hang of it, here are a few tips to get you started:
- Give your brain some down time. You will be more productive if, several times a day, you step away from mentally challenging tasks for three to five minutes. And we mean completely step away – a “communication break,” so to speak. Taking a break will help make room for your next inspired idea because a halt in constant thinking slows the mind’s rhythms to allow more innovative “aha” moments.
- Focus deeply, without distraction. Silence your phone, turn off your email and try to perform just one task at a time. Start with 15-minute intervals and work your way up to longer time if this is tough. Giving your full attention to the project at hand will increase accuracy, innovation and speed.
- Make a to-do list. Then identify your top two priorities for the day and make sure they are accomplished above all else. Giving the most important tasks your brain’s prime time will make you feel more productive.