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Why you should stop trying to multi-task

The title of this blog post may confuse you, as traditionally being able to multi-task and excel at efficiently dividing your attention between tasks and projects has been seen as a desired characteristic.  However, evidence shows that dedicating our time to concentrating on one single thing has much more lucrative results.

We seem to be embedded with the urge to multi-task, rather than focus on one thing, finish it and move on to what is next on our list.  Is this because we feel we have achieved more if we swap between a variety of different things?  Consider times when you have tried to type an email when on a conference call, or flitting between two tasks at the same time – has the result been thorough and to the best of your ability?  You may have completed more things on your to-do list in a particular amount of time, however, dividing our attention has a negative impact on the performance and quality of our work.

As Bloomberg Businessweek simply and effectively state: single-minded concentration on one task ‘is a lost art’.  So how can you make sure you rekindle your relationship with focusing on one thing at a time?  Bloomberg Businessweek mentioned the following four ideas to get you on track!

Establish team meeting rules

Set concrete boundaries for your team meetings so distractions and opportunities to multi-task are removed, such as no phones or laptops allowed in meetings.  Highlight to your team the ‘power of focus and engagement’ in meetings and you could even factor points in time in the meetings where any member could be asked to provide a summary of the key discussion points and topics so far.

Take some alone time to think

Setting aside time to be by yourself and focus on specific things can work wonders.  Often our best ideas, insights and ‘eureka’ moments come when we step outside of our daily routine, so schedule in time into your calendar for ‘thinking time’.  After all, as Bloomberg Businessweek remind us; if the greats adhered to this concept it must work, such as Thomas Edison, American Inventor and Businessman, who fished off a dock with no bait on the line so he could be alone with his thoughts, or Colin Powell, American statesman and retired four-star general in the United States Army, closing his door to read and think for hours before offering his perspective on global issues!

Focus on the hardest task first

First thing in the morning your mind is fresh and not yet cluttered with ‘To-Dos’, arising problems or other projects, so make the most of this and tackle the difficult project first.  Previously you may have worked on it during various stages throughout the day, however, having to revisit it and remember where you left off and pick up that train of thought again uses up useful time! Focusing on completing the most difficult task first will remove that impending cloud it may hold over your head.

Remove distractions to multitask!

Close down the apps on your phone, put your personal phone away out of sight, limit the amount of web browsers you are allowing yourself to have open, create a structured To-Do List to work through and get yourself into the mind-set of focusing and completing one task at a time!

Concentrating on being a single-task thinker and leader will ensure you give your projects your full attention and utilise your best ideas, rather than doing a preoccupied, rushed attempt.  Producing work you are proud of and which shows off your highest ability will make you feel better about your work!  Additionally, consider the importance of your part as a role model for your team and through proving the effectiveness of focusing intently on tasks and projects, it will increase your overall team effectiveness.

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