Single Tasking and Productivity – Part 1

This is the beginning of a series that I hope will help you focus on the task at hand. Some sage advice from

‘Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.’ ~Alexander Graham Bell

Many of us grew up in the age of multi-tasking, where you couldn’t call yourself productive if you weren’t a good multi-tasker. We learned to always have several balls in the air at once — while writing something on the computer, we had a phone call going, we were writing something on a notepad or paper form, we were reviewing documents, sometimes even holding a meeting at the same time. That’s the productive worker, the effective executive.

When email and Instant Messaging and blogs and the rest of the Internet came along, multi-tasking went haywire. Now we’re expected to do 10 things on the computer at once, still with the paper, phone, and meetings going, along with texting and Blackberry Messaging. Multi-tasking is no longer about being productive — it’s a way of living.

It’s not a sane way of living, however, and it’s not necessarily the most effective way of working either. A few notes on why:

  • Multi-tasking is less efficient, due to the need to switch gears for each new task, and the switch back again.
  • Multi-tasking is more complicated, and thus more prone to stress and errors.
  • Multi-tasking can be crazy, and in this already chaotic world, we need to reign in the terror and find a little oasis of sanity and calm.
  • Our brains can really only handle one thing at a time, and so we get so used to switching between one thing and another with our brains that we program them to have a short attention span. This is why it’s so hard to learn to focus on one thing at a time again.

Follow along, where next time we will focus on living a single-tasking life.


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2 Responses to Single Tasking and Productivity – Part 1

  1. Juli Monroe says:

    I completely agree. I can’t multi-task, and I don’t try to fool myself into thinking that I can. I’ve tried writing an email while listening to a teleclass or an audiobook, and it doesn’t work. I either stop writing the email or lose track of what I was listening to.

    Single task all the way for me. About the only two things I can do at once are work and listen to music. Music does help me focus, especially when I’m writing.

  2. Janet says:

    Juli – Congratulations! You probably get more done (and done better) in a day than most since you are a single tasker.
    There have been studies showing that music helps people concentrate. I don’t know why, but I’m like you. When I sit down to work, first thing I do is turn music on.

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