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To-do list stressing you out? Doing this simple task will improve your productivity at work

by Jennifer McShane
30th Apr 2020

Being truly productive during the working day has little to do with multi-tasking

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 only left me with 20 more to do. Stress mounted. So, I had to take a step back. I couldn’t make drastic changes to my schedule, but I could start small.


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 has been seen as the modern way to get things done.

However, the good thing is, single-tasking is now viewed as the ultimate productivity tool, forcing you 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 downtime. 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 periods 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.

Main photograph: Unsplash

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