Multi-tasking used to be all the rage. You’d juggle ten different things at once and impress everyone with how much you got done in a day. But really, the joke was on you because now studies show that when you try multi-tasking, you end up taking longer to finish each task and none of them get 100 percent of your efforts. Multi-tasking takes much more time and energy because you’re constantly thinking about all the other things you have to do.
Single-tasking, on the other hand, means focusing on one single task at a time.
How do you single-task?
The way to single-task is pretty straightforward: you do it by minimizing interruptions. When you’re focused on directing your entire attention to one task, you are able to complete it more efficiently.
The result is that your final product will be of much higher quality than it would have been if you were trying to do two (or more) things at once.
Minimizing distractions is easier said than done, however. If you're the type who often checks your phone, even when there's no alert for new messages, you might need to turn it off or keep it in another room. Similarly, when you log on to your computer, you need to make sure to keep your email closed and stop yourself from opening Facebook or Twitter in a background tab.
Write stuff down
If you want your work to go smoothly, don’t rely on your memory to keep a running to do list. It’s so easy to forget steps in a process if you don’t have a list of some sort to go by. And it can cause major distractions if you finish one section of a project and aren’t sure what the next step is.
This happened to me with the last coloring package I created. I was almost to the end and realized I had forgotten to do one step in the process that would make the lines in my images appear crisp and clean. And when I went to finalize the images, all the lines were still jagged and blurry. I ended up having to start the process back at the beginning in order to get a set of images with crisp lines and that I was proud enough of to put my name on.
If I had had a written process list, I would never have missed that step, and it wouldn’t have taken me two extra days to get my product ready. (Believe me when I say I have a written process list now!)
Besides giving you a map to focus your efforts, writing everything down does two other things for you. First, it keeps you accountable – especially if you use something like a bullet journal or checklist to mark items as completed. The second thing it does is take the pressure off you because once it’s written down you don’t have to remember everything that needs to be done.
If you’re a planner junkie like me, you can set up your day or your week beforehand so that you know exactly what you’ll be focusing on in each time block. You can use something like the scheduling page in the Digital Marketer’s Planner to set up your time blocks and have a clear picture of your week.
Doing this allows you to set up your workspace and ensure you have everything you need to complete those tasks. It also saves you from the dreaded ‘I don’t know what to do next’ dilemma.
Once you have your schedule completed, and you’re ready to go, start with the single task in the first block and work at it until it’s done.
The Digital Marketer's Planner by Angela Wills
A key component of single-tasking is prioritizing your work. What needs to be done now? What can wait?
As Gary Kellar says in “The One Thing,” “Figure out what matters most in the moment and give it your undivided attention.” (p.53)
It might take time to make the practice of single tasking a habit, but once you do you’ll find that you’re more mindful, more productive, and less stressed about getting things done.