Multitasking? 3 advice for single-tasking

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Multitasking? 3 advice for single-tasking

If while, you are reading this article, you have several tabs open in your browser, you opened Facebook, or you are thinking to send an email or to call someone, then you should continue reading!

Most of the times, the business environment leads to super-competencies of employees which should switch from meetings to preparing a report or answering an email. Technology made everything more difficult. If before of app or smartphones, we talked about multitasking only related to our work on the computer, today we find people walking on the street or at the subway checking their phone, without looking. Moreover, it’s not unusual to see families at a Sunday lunch together, that don’t speak to each other, but have a common object: their smartphone.

Multitasking comes from IT, where computers do concurrent tasks. Multitasking in IT doesn’t mean that the processes are made simultaneous, but rather they share common resources. The term was transferred to human activity, and as in the computers case, people switch from one task to another (interrupting focusing on a particular task).

In one of the multiple tests for verifying the impact of multitasking, 4 employees (2 experts in multitasking and 2 experts on single-tasking), were tested on solving a puzzle. The two experts in multitasking, were allowed to answer the phone, to write messages or email while solving the puzzle. From the others that where focused on single-tasking, one of them was interrupted by the noise of the notification on his mobile phone, while the other totally ignored these notifications.

The results of the test: the fastest one was the employee who focused while ignoring notifications. The next two place were the multitasking experts, while surprisingly, the last place was the single-tasking expert who was interrupted by the notification, although he was solving the puzzle.

Being focused on a task, but with devices near that distract you is even worse than checking the notification.

New research in the multitasking field showed negative effects both on the brain and career. Researchers from Stanford University discovered that those that receive multiple information on different devices, can’t focus, control their memory or switch from a task to another as easily as those working on a single task. More about the study here.

Single-tasking (or focusing on a single task) can mean that our entire attention is on that particular activity. This could have multiple benefits: efficiency, time reduction and better understanding of the problem that we are trying to solve.

If you are a person that want to practice more single-tasking, here are 3 steps that you could use:

  1. Define clearly what you want to do: working on a report, presentation or writing an article.
  2. Set the interval needed to finish the work.
  3. Eliminate any interruption: if you need to participate in a meeting, you can silent you phone and social networks could wait. Tell your colleagues that you need to finish a task and start working. You can use a timer to check you status, mainly for future tasks & analysis. You should work in session, by using Pomodoro technique (25 minutes of focus on the task with 5 minutes of break) or Robin Sharma’s 60/10 rule: 60 minutes of work with 10 minutes of break.

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