Devora Zack, CEO of Only Connect Consulting, Inc.
Life in the Fast Lane
We are living distracted lives.
Raise your hand if you have observed people doing any of the following:
- Colliding with others while looking at a phone
- Not driving when the light turns green
- Playing games on handheld devices at professional events
- Not noticing when arriving at the front of a line at a shop
These minor irritations are the tip of the iceberg. Let’s also do a smidgeon of self-reflection. In the name of presumed efficiency, at work do you ever:
- Check messages while in a meeting
- Read emails while on the phone
- Peruse social media while working on a project
Does lacking focus make you more productive? Does being scattered enhance your sense of calm? Rather than saving the day, multitasking exacts a serious toll – derailing careers, relationships, and lives.
In a fruitless effort to compensate for the tsunami we call our lives, we attempt to tackle several tasks at once…making distracted living rampant. We lose concentration, heighten stress, and senselessly fret over items unrelated to the task at hand. We are relentlessly disrespectful to the people right in front of us – colleagues, customers, vendors, employees, cohorts, and our loved ones.
Fragmented attention (aka multitasking) fractures results and foils relationships.
In reality, your brain is incapable of simultaneously processing separate streams of information from more than one task. That’s because of “interference” between the tasks, says MIT’s Dr. Earl Miller.
Multitasking is a myth. What you’re really doing is task-switching—the technical term for moving rapidly and ineffectively between tasks. And guess what? Task-switching decreases productivity by as much as 40 percent.
And there’s more. Neuroscientists at Harvard, Stanford, and the University of London have discovered attempting to multitask not only lowers your IQ it even shrinks your brain!
How’s multitasking working for you so far?
The Singletasking Solution
What’s our stressed-out society to do? One word: singletasking.
Singletasking isn’t only about getting things done. It’s also about developing focus. Living in the present will improve the very essence of your life, including work, relationships, and frankly, everything else that matters.
You can do one thing well or two things poorly. Here are a few techniques to get you started on the singletasking solution.
At work, it’s up to you to control your environment—to “build fences” to keep potential distractions, such as noise and pop-ups, at bay. Rather than blame technology or colleagues, take control of your workspace and gadgets. For example, before a conference call, close your door or put a “Quiet” Post-it note outside your office space. Mute all chimes, ringers, and pings, and turn off visual alerts and social media messaging.
Does reading and replying to texts, emails, and social media messages lure you away from bigger, more important projects? Then try clustertasking—a technique whereby you bunch related tasks into specific segments during the day. At the office, for instance, you could cluster your emailing to three segments daily—such as upon arrival, post-lunch, and pre-departure.
Are you ever in a meeting and completely miss what was just said? This is an indication of what I call Scattered Brain Syndrome (SBS). Synchronizing your mind and your environment by giving complete focus to the task at hand combats SBS. Immersing yourself in one task brings about a “flow state” of high efficiency, satisfaction, and creativity.
4. Park It.
Singletasking doesn’t require you to discard distracting thoughts. Instead, employ systems to set them aside until you can redirect your mind. One technique is to “park” other ideas in a designated place, such as a notes page on your smartphone, and then quickly return to the current endeavor.
Singletasking obliges you to do one thing at a time—excluding any other demands at that moment. This means you must stand firm and genuinely commit to your choices. You can manage your next task after working on the existing one. You don’t have to complete every task all at once, just the current period of time dedicated to it.
Stop the madness…start singletasking. Reclaim your life, regain control, and remember what really matters. Singletasking will change the quality of your life. Take the plunge!
You can do it.
[Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]
About the Author
Devora Zack, CEO of Only Connect Consulting, Inc., is the author of three books, published globally in over 25 languages. Her new release is Singletasking: Get More Done—One Thing at a Time (Berrett-Koehler). An international expert in leadership development, she is an award-winning keynote speaker, consultant, and coach with 100+ clients. Visit myonlyconnect.com and follow her on twitter @Devora_Zack.