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How to boost your productivity with single-tasking

Are you trying to accomplish multiple things in one go? Are you constantly multitasking? How much do you actually accomplish when you multitask? New studies are revealing that efficiency accruing to multitasking is a myth as more and more people are achieving less and less because they are unable to focus on a single task. Multitasking hasn’t just crept into our work culture, it is also present even when you’re not doing something work-related. For instance, when you’re watching TV, you might also be fiddling with your phone, checking your Twitter messages, liking Facebook posts or writing a blog post on your laptop or teaching your kid math. We do it without even realising. This is wreaking havoc with our productivity. We have this illusion that we’re doing a lot, but in actuality, we are achieving little.

This FastCompany blog post refers to a Michigan State University research in which 300 students were observed while taking a computer test, while being constantly interrupted. The interruptions came in the form of pop-ups that required students to enter something. These interruptions lasted for as little as 2.8-4 seconds. The number of errors doubled when they were disturbed for 2.8 seconds and quadrupled when they were disturbed for four seconds.

The problem today is that we don’t get enough time to reflect on a particular task. We’re normally running out of time because we are spending our precious time on things that we’re not supposed to be doing. Even if you’re supposed to do those things, it’s no use doing them simultaneously. Instead, you should focus on single-tasking. It is the total opposite of multitasking.

Multitasking came to fashion primarily when it was used for computer processing. You could perform multiple tasks at the same time. You could run multiple programs like a word processor, a browser and an image editing software (for example) at the same time and you could quickly switch into various programs. As processing capabilities of our computers increased did their ability to run more and more programs. Then you also had browsers in which you could open multiple tabs. Then came mobile phones with which you could do things that you could only do with your computers and laptops. With laptops, tablets and mobile phones, you could simply carry around the computing power that was once available at just one spot. At least before the advent of laptops and smartphones when you moved to your TV room or your study room, you didn’t carry along your gadgets.

You can boost your productivity by consciously focusing on just a single task rather than constantly being in a state of distraction by trying to do multiple things at the same time. Embrace minimalism. There is lots of clutter around you, in your mind, around your physical world, everywhere. You have to decide that OK, I’m going to remove distractions from my life, I’m going to focus on the task at hand rather than scores of other things that might be related, or not related to my task at hand. Here is a nice video present in the same FastCompany link mentioned above: