Does multitasking make you more efficient? Not necessarily. While it is sometimes necessary to do several different things at once, there is compelling research that suggests a divided attention span begets low-quality work and less overall productivity. By focusing all your attention on doing one task—and doing it well—you can get it done more quickly, not have to redo it, and move on to the next thing more rapidly.
Yet many professionals have become multitask addicts. There are apps to aid with our multitasking, and many of us have daily routines that force us to take on several different activities at once.
Longtime multitaskers may have a hard time shifting to a unitask approach; the thought of sitting down in a quiet room to focus 100 percent of your effort into the completion of a single task can frankly be daunting. But it doesn’t have to be.
How to Get Better at Unitasking
A few tips to move beyond multitasking include:
- Remember that concentration is key. You can’t have 25 percent of your brainpower devoted to email and 25 percent devoted to social media; all of it needs to go to the task at hand. Eliminating distractions may mean turning off your phone and email notifications for certain stretches of the day.
- Schedule your distractions. Of course, you’re going to have phone calls to take, emails to check, and potentially questions from team members. Try to put all of this stuff on your schedule, and only engage these tasks at appointed times. Set aside two windows for email each day; plan a block of phone calls; set office hours for any non-emergency inquiries.
- Set specific timeframes for each task. Tell yourself that you’re going to work hard for 50 minutes, then take a 10-minute break—or whatever breakdown works for you. Don’t let a long expanse of unscheduled time psyche you out!
- Unitask during your most productive time of day. Are you most energized and most productive during the morning? Then that’s when you need to schedule a big block of time to get work done.
- Schedule like tasks together. Shifting gears from proposal writing to a conference call and then back again can be tough; avoid it by scheduling similar tasks back-to-back as best you can.
Allow yourself time each day to focus on really getting stuff done—one thing at a time—and see how it revolutionizes your productivity!