When was the last time you gave a task your complete attention without being distracted? Typically, humans try to multitask whenever possible, but the modern workplace is plagued by fragmented attention, never-ending to-do lists, and the feeling that everything important was due fifteen minutes ago.
Although multitasking seems like the only option as deadlines and demands increase, it may not be productive. While it may be satisfying to juggle several communication channels or work on multiple projects simultaneously, studies suggest that our brains are not equipped to successfully take notes, listen to feedback, and check email at the same time. This approach divides our attention, reduces productivity, and leaves others with the impression that we are not fully focused. In essence, our brains cycle between tasks quickly, scattering our focus and energy over several projects rather than concentrating on one, leading to mediocre results.
Why Single-Tasking is Key
It is likely that you have been multitasking for so long that you have lost memory of what it feels like to focus entirely on one item. Single tasking can help maintain attention and solve one issue at a time. By focusing on a single task, we can channel more mental and physical energy into it, which can lower stress levels, make time management more manageable, and lead to a greater sense of accomplishment. To reduce technology-related distractions and unhealthy multitasking habits, Penda Aiken Inc. recommends four simple strategies:
Minimize context-switching by time-blocking tasks, scheduling necessary work time in your calendar, and focusing on one activity at a time. This helps build accountability and clarity for your teammates on when you are available and when you are busy.
Treat your focus time as sacred.
Treat your focus time as sacred by scheduling times when you can silence your phone, close your email, and turn off your Slack notifications to allow for productive "deep work" moments. It is essential to create a team culture that fosters the understanding that it is okay not to respond immediately.
Write it down.
Write down distracting thoughts and ideas to avoid interrupting your work. Use a pen and paper or Slack's "remind me" feature to snooze messages until you have time to read them again.
Create a system that works for you.
Create a system that works for you by trial and error, conscious of your multitasking tendency, and developing routines and habits. Eventually, auto-pilot will take over, allowing you to jump between contexts and enter deep work mode more naturally.
To foster a productive team culture, it is crucial to give yourself and your team permission to set aside time to devote wholly to their job. With practice, these strategies can help reduce distractions, increase productivity, and lead to a greater sense of accomplishment.
Do you practice single-tasking? Or are you a multi-talking master? Let us know!