We’re all guilty of it: toggling between screens and applications; answering emails while talking to someone on speakerphone. These are normal daily activities that eat away at our productivity. The ability to focus on a singular task has become a novel idea; we have forgotten the importance of paying attention to one thing at a time and having complete focus. With increasing responsibilities and deliverables, the average person has resorted to ‘multitasking’ all the time. It is so common that it doesn’t even seem like multitasking anymore.
Yet there are real ramifications for splitting your time and attention on an ongoing basis. One study found that multitasking with multiple media devices actually changes the brain structure, which can lead to “poor attention in the face of distractions, along with emotional problems such as depression and anxiety,” according to the University of Sussex’s report.
While depression and anxiety may seem like extreme results of multitasking, another study reported that it reduces a person’s productivity by 40%. If that doesn’t make you take pause, I don’t know what will! In a world that praises efficiency, this is a staggering number and debunks the theory that we are working smarter not harder.
For small businesses, efficiency is highly regarded, so to imagine that multitasking is actually detracting from productivity is mind-boggling. Instead of multitasking, we challenge you to employ ‘monotasking’, or “focusing on one thing at a time, with as few interruptions and distractions as possible.”
To get yourself back on track, try integrating these tactics into your daily life:
1. Block off time for discrete tasks
As Guy Winch, PhD, and author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guild and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries says,
“What tends to save the most time is to do things in batches. Pay your bills all at once, then send your emails all at once. Each task requires a specific mindset, and once you get a groove you should stay there and finish.”
2. Prioritize your day
Start each day by making a to-do list. Then rank what is of utmost importance to complete and tackle it head-on. You will quickly find as you dedicate yourself to the high priority item that you are in ‘the zone’ and are making incredible progress.
3. Know yourself and your weaknesses
In order to monotask successfully, you need to eliminate your distractions. Flipping through mobile apps and checking email are practically second nature; they barely register as interruptions anymore. However these types of distractions jeopardize productivity and can derail you in a second. Even as I wrote this bullet point, I paused to see what emails came through to my inbox.
A way to manage these kinds of distractions – and any other that may be triggers for you – is to disconnect:
- Set your phone to “Do Not Disturb”
- Close out of Outlook and your web browser
- Turn off notifications on any device
- Shut your office door
These are only a handful of ideas, but you get the picture. Create a space where you can think and concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time. Do whatever is necessary and appropriate given your office culture to give yourself the environment to work efficiently and effectively.
After reading these tips, would you consider taking a 5-day or 30-day challenge to see how these small changes affect both your professional and personal life? We’d love to hear from you.
About the Author: Julie Chomiak is the Content Marketing Specialist for Webs and Pagemodo. When she’s not scouring the web for small business trends, Julie loves traveling, interior design, and animals of all kinds. Get more from Julie on the Webs Blog and the Pagemodo blog.