There are so many reasons we should avoid multi-tasking and learn to focus on one thing: From adding to, or causing overwhelm, lowering our impulse control and willpower right through to being a factor in stress and anxiety and reducing our emotional intelligence.
(Multi-tasking is also addictive creating a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, so that’s a challenge!)
But How Do We 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. Don’t think, just write. If you don’t know what to write just write about how I have told you to write. Use pen and paper and just brain dump. You will be amazed at how much clearer your brain will be afterwards. If things crop up that are actions that must be done put a big star next to it, or circle it. Once you’re done writing, go back and make a note of any actions that cropped up and add them to today’s list. Then you’re ready to carry on with your day with a clearer head.
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 keep on track with 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