Humans can’t multitask.
It’s not a discussion, it’s a scientific fact.
In fact, when we try to multitask, we’re splitting up our brainpower. Instead of doing several things at once, we’re just rapidly switching from task to task.
Which is a terribly inefficient use of time.
So instead of splitting up our brainpower, let’s focus on just one thing at a time. Let’s unitask.
But I Can’t Not Multitask!
Excuses! But I know what you mean.
Our days are full of dozens of things all grabbing at our attention. While it may be nice to shut them all out and focus on just one thing, it may not feel possible.
As a first step, make the choice to unitask even when multitasking may be tempting. Instead of trying to work on three different projects at once, focus on just one.
At work, this looks like cleaning up your work space. You should only have things pertaining to the project at hand on your desk(top).
Close the tabs you’re not using in your browser.
Close the documents that don’t pertain to your current project.
Don’t check your email (seriously).
Clean up papers that don’t apply and put them off to the side.
Move anything unnecessary or distracting away.
Give yourself 15 minutes to focus on just one thing.
You’ll get a lot more work done in those 15 minutes of unitasking than you would in an hour of multitasking. I promise.
After those 15 minutes are up, take a break. Take 30 seconds and let your mind rest. Stand up and stretch your legs. Look around your office. Studies show that taking breaks keeps you focused and can increase productivity. (study)
Feels good doesn’t it?
But There Are So Many Things to Do!
Agreed. There are lots of tasks in a day, and it hardly ever involves just one project that needs worked on.
I’m personally split up between departments at my job. I’m project manager of one department, yet still part of the sales force. Both departments fight for my attention all the time, and it’s hard to balance them.
I’ve found that working in 15-minute blocks helps tremendously. I designate 15 minutes for one task, and do just that task.
I don’t check my email, don’t think about other tasks, and don’t let myself get distracted.
As a result, I get a lot done every day.
Even more than if I were trying to juggle a lot of different tasks and working a bit on one, then switching to another, then another.
At first I was worried that people would require my attention in the middle of my unitasking, and it would interrupt me. But only working in 15 minute chunks means that, at the very worst, I can get to someone else within 15 minutes.
They’ll live if they have to wait 15 minutes.
So don’t try to multitask. Focus on one thing at a time, and simplify your life in the process. Focusing keeps you from being distracted, which simplifies your work. And being more productive means fewer things on the to-do list. And a smaller to-do list means a simpler life.