There are so many reasons we should avoid multi-tasking and learning to stay focused is one of them!
Others effects of multi-tasking include:
- adding to, or causing overwhelm,
- lowering our impulse control and willpower
- increasing stress and anxiety
- reducing our emotional intelligence.
(Multi-tasking is also addictive creating a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, so that’s a challenge!)
But How Do We Stay Focused And Avoid Multi-Tasking?
Ways to overcome multi-tasking are numerous and your success will vary depending on different factors: the type of work you do, your working environment, how your days are structured, and what’s going on around you. These are some things that I’ve found help me and my clients to stay focused on one job at a time.
1) Empty Your Head: One of the biggest factors in continuing to multi-task is whether my brain is full of stuff. If I’m thinking about all the things I have going on and have to do then I tend to flit between jobs in an attempt to ensure I don’t forget anything. So I find that emptying my head is a really useful technique to keep me focussed and on track.
How do I do this? Morning Writing is one of the keys. First thing in the morning (or as near as possible to it) grab a notebook and just write. It doesn’t have to make sense or be legible, just write for 3 sides of A4 (yes, that’s 6 pages in a smaller A5 notebook). It sounds like a lot but trust me on this, when you get practised it will only take about 20 minutes and is so worthwhile. You’ll find more about it here in my article on journalling.
2) Fuel Yourself Properly: Have a good breakfast to ensure you are fuelled and ready to go. Using your brain takes energy and as we get drained it becomes more easy to get distracted. Grab a cup of coffee or a small square of dark chocolate before you embark on a period of focus. The more alert you are the more likely you are to focus, and not get distracted.
3) Clear your work area: Physical clutter gets in the way and causes a subconscious distraction.
What If You’re Easily Distracted?
4) Identify your stressor and distractors: Take some time to think about what annoys and distracts you and work out a way to eliminate them. These could include going offline for a period of time, turning off notifications, or even using a different computer to do certain work so you can’t see all your social media or games.
5) If you know you’re going to get distracted, do it in a controlled way: Schedule a time of day to go online, check your emails, do the social media or scrolling thing. Maybe think of it as a reward for being focussed for an hour or more.
6) Prioritise: If you’ve done some morning writing this process should have already begun. Ensure that you have a list – not in your head – of all the things outstanding that need to be done. Identify between 1 and 3 things that absolutely need to be done today over everything else. Then choose one and decide how long you want to dedicate to it. Set yourself a deadline and start work on it.
7) Create Some Space: Before you begin, take two minutes to breathe. Sit at your desk and focus on your body, your connection with the chair, your feet with the floor and count your breath. Bring your awareness to yourself and to the centre of your being. After a couple of minutes of mindful breathing, open your eyes and start your work.
Give Yourself A Break!
8) Work in blocks: Set a timer for an hour and work on your number one priority. After an hour, have a break and stretch your legs. Breathe and grab some water and maybe a cuppa. Have a break for at least 10 minute. Set a timer for another hour and continue with the task, or start the one that is the next priority.
(I have the ‘silent’ and ‘do not disturb’ profile on my phone set up so that everything is silent except my alarms. This allows me to use my phone for times but not hear if anything else is happening.)
9) Little & Often: Breaking down larger tasks into smaller chunks will help you whizz through a todo list and tick things off. This will give you a lovely sense of achievement and a yummy hit of dopamine at the same time! (Hopefully, this will replace the dopamine hit you would ordinarily get from multi-tasking.) This helps to keep you motivated and on track. Sometimes I will actually go through all my easy quick actions for the first hour of the day just to get them out of the way and feel good before starting on the bigger stuff. I know this goes against the ‘Eat That Frog’ philosophy but some days I just need to feel I am achieving something quickly to get me going.
10) Chew gum: A weird one but there are some studies suggesting that chewing gum can increase your alertness. Although I often use peppermint essential oil (or Doterra’s ‘motivate’ blend which contains peppermint oil) in my office to keep me focussed so I am wondering if it’s the menthol in the gum that helps. Peppermint definitely keeps me awake, alert and motivated so why not give it a go?
What are your top tips to stay focused one task?
How do you avoid multi-tasking?
What’s your top priority today?
Are you going to give one or more of these a go?
Most people know they can be super-productive when they focus, they just need some tools and tips to help them to do that.
I’d love to hear your ideas and feedback on what works for you
Transformational Women's Coach, Trainer, Speaker & Author
Combining a spiritual outlook, a pragmatic approach, and a sense of humour I want to help you remember who YOU are and reveal YOUR path so you can step on to it empowered, energised, inspired and guided.
What are your thoughts or questions? Let me know below
This generation is overwhelmed with many tasks to consumed daily.
We are overloaded with a lot of information every day, and this has probably become a global challenge. Looking for a way out, many people accidentally or intentionally ended up multitasking, believing that it is the only way out. Never do they recognize that usually, it does more harm than good.
I believe that if the general public can be enlightened and educated on how to tackle this daily challenge and also the negative effect of multitasking on them, many people will see the reasons why they need to stop multitasking.
In addition, I believe this eye-opener article will solve part of the challenge, good work!
Thank you for your article. I’m a retiree trying to break myself of the habit of life long multitasking as it is not bringing me any peace! Unfortunately i fell for the societal/ corporate imperative in my day. I think many of your ideas are excellent and i shall incorporate them.
Thank you both for your comments. Not sure it’s just this generation either, it’s part of the whole pressure of being a particular way in order to fit in, be successful, a good mother, employee, entrepreneur etc. Hopefully we can encourage people to change their beliefs around it x