In an age of omnipresent technology, competing distractions have become the norm in most workplaces. We get to work, sit down, and are instantly enthralled by the ringing phone, email, internet, social media, and daily tasks. “Multi-tasking” is our go-to as we try to manage the stress and chaos of our lives. The problem with this is that multi-tasking has been repeatedly found to be inefficient. Switching focus from one uncompleted task to another rapidly actually takes more time than it would to complete a task and move on to the next. Our brains are not designed to fully engage in multiple tasks simultaneously. How can you get out of the habit of multi-tasking and be a more productive employee? Here are some tips that will help you:
- Determine how long you can focus. How long can you spend doing a single task without looking at your phone, checking your email or losing your focus? It could be 15 minutes. It could be an hour or more. We all have our personal limits. Knowing your own limits will allow you to effectively schedule your days around meetings. If you can only focus on something for 20 minutes, schedule it in and switch to another 20 minute task when your time is up. You can schedule 20 minute sessions to work on a task until it’s complete.
- Eliminate your biggest distractions. If you have a habit of frequently checking your email in the middle of your tasks, turn it off. You can turn it back on later. If your phone is the culprit, turn it off and put it in a drawer. Remove your temptations and give yourself a better chance at remaining focused.
- Use your time wisely. Figure out what your most important tasks are each day. Schedule in time to get them done. Remain focused on them until they are finished. Don’t engage in time-sucks. If something is not worth the time you’re spending on it, move on. If you’re in a meeting that is going nowhere, politely excuse yourself. You are a more valuable employee if you spend your time and focus on tasks that add value to the company.
- Take care of your body. It is easier to focus when you are well fed and hydrated, and your body has had sufficient sleep and exercise. Taking care of yourself physically will help you mentally. Focusing on your tasks will be easier, and you will also help lower your stress levels. Take this important time for yourself! You will be happier in the long run.
We have been trained throughout life to multi-task. Mono-tasking can be a difficult practice at first, but as all things, you will, indeed, get better with practice. Continually remind yourself of your purpose, goals, and drive, and you will be able to push your own limits and productivity. Stay focused!
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