Advertising
Advertising

Published on December 13, 2017

Quit Multi Tasking Before It’s Too Late

Quit Multi Tasking Before It’s Too Late

When you’ve got a full schedule, multitasking looks like a good way to free up time. Almost everybody does it. Kids eat while watching TV or playing on an iPad. Adults simultaneously text and surf the internet. Walk down any city street, and you’ll see people attempting to walk and use their smartphones at the same time.

Multitasking has become the norm. We even pride ourselves on how many things we can do at once. The more tasks we can juggle, the more valuable we feel we are to our companies, families, and friends. This may be flawed logic, however.

When you think back on your experiences with multitasking, did you really accomplish more? Our obsession with multitasking confirms our love of productivity, but the quality of our work may tell a different story.

Advertising

Multitasking is a habit, not an art form

Nothing beats wrapping up a day of work with a cleared checklist. It feels good to accomplish so much at once. Multi-tasking has become a habit for most of us. It’s expected of us, and we don’t think twice about tackling several projects at once.

Habits are made of three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward.[1] The cue prompts us to do something, the routine is the behavior acted out, and the reward is the payoff that we get from the routine. Habits are hard to break because when you successfully complete your routine, your brain releases a feel-good neurotransmitter called dopamine.

According to some studies, our brains release lots of dopamine when we’re multitasking. Your brain rewards you more when you multitask because you are fulfilling more routines at the same time.[2] All that dopamine–and the feelings of satisfaction that come along with it–trick you into thinking you’re great at multitasking. This is why the habit is so hard to break.

Advertising

More isn’t necessarily better

The “more is better” mentality is a myth in need of busting. Research has proven that multi-tasking isn’t good for us, and we aren’t as good at it as we think. Your brain is simply not built to focus on multiple things at the same time.[3]

When you’re faced with doing two things at once, it’s not possible for you to focus completely on both items. Instead, your brain rapidly switches between the two tasks, which creates the illusion that you’re 100% invested in two activities at the same time.

When your mind has to juggle, it can’t be as effective as when you give your undivided attention. It takes longer to do things because you’re constantly interrupting yourself. You’ll make more errors because every time your brain switches tasks you have to refocus. You’ll also feel more stressed as you flip between jobs.[4]

Advertising

Switching back and forth affects your memory and the quality of your work. Sure, more items are completed at the end of a day of multitasking, but have you had the chance to think about them with sufficient depth?

I’m sorry to break it to you, but if you want to do your best work, it’s time to break the multi-tasking habit and focus on doing one thing at a time.

Monotasking gets better results

It may sound counter-intuitive to switch from doing several things at the same time to limiting yourself to one task. Monotasking, or doing only one thing, is better for us, and it improves work outputs.

Advertising

We have to retrain our brains to make single-tasking a habit. By devoting your full attention to one task, you can maintain focus for longer, work with more depth, and produce higher-quality work.

Research shows that when you make a conscious effort to refocus a wandering mind, you increase your ability to control your attention. Just like you can develop muscle memory to make some jobs seem second nature to you, you can harness the power that your prefrontal cortex has over your limbic system. Your focus and memory improves, and you have better control over your mind.

Easy tips to build your monotasking muscle

  • Open one tab at a time. How often do you have 15-20 items open on your computer screen at once? Limit yourself to having one tab open. This keeps you from being tempted to flip between tabs and lose concentration.
  • Start small. Making drastic changes to your lifestyle can leave you feeling frustrated. Take small steps to make mindfulness a natural part of your day. At mealtimes, for example, clear away all other distractions. When you’re in a meeting, turn your phone off and put it away. These minor changes add up to days filled with more focus.
  • Set your priorities. You might have a mile-long list of things that need your attention, but you have to be realistic about what you can accomplish. Think about what is most important, and when you work best so that you can still be productive without sacrificing quality.[5]
  • Curb your excesses. Most of us have too much stuff cluttering our lives. Think about what you need to complete the task in front of you, and put everything else away. Resist the urge to over-commit by saying “yes” to too many things and having all your projects out at once. When you are working on something, everything else should be put aside.
  • Let people know what you’re doing. If your colleagues are used to you dropping everything to put out the latest fire, they may be shocked to find that you are prioritizing your schedule in a new way. They’ll be more likely to respect and support your efforts if they know what you’re trying to do.[6]

All these tips help you rein in your wandering mind. Each time you are able to stop distraction and refocus, you build your attention muscle. The more control you have over paying attention, the less you’ll be distracted. Eventually, focus will become your new habit.

Single tasking is the next big thing

It’s time to ditch the multitasking myth we’ve been sold for years. We humans aren’t as good at multitasking as we think. This habit robs us of our focus and the opportunity to do profound work.

If the idea of totally changing your workflow seems overwhelming, try a few of the tips in this article to get started. After you feel what it’s like to devote your energy to one thing at a time, you’ll be able to make monotasking a habit.

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating) Secrets to Organizing Thoughts and Ideas (So You’ll Never Lose Ideas!) How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Evil Root Causes And How To Tackle Them

Trending in Smartcut

1What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating) 2How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done 317 Types of Online Work at Home Jobs that Really Pay Off 421 Cover Letter Tips to Hook The Attention of Employers 5How to Quit Your Job That You Hate and Start Doing What You Love

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 19, 2018

What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating)

What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating)

If you have so many things to do that you often find yourself struggling to finish projects and tasks and move on to other stuff, you’re certainly not alone. Studies show that over 20 percent of the adult population put off or avoid doing certain tasks by allowing themselves to be overtaken by distractions.[1]

What about the rest of the population? What do they do to prevent procrastination?

In this article, I am going to explain to you why procrastination is so difficult to beat and how you can stop procrastinating once and for all by following a step-by-step guide. But first, you need to understand how procrastination happens.

What is procrastination

Piers Steel, the author of the book The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done, defines procrastination in this way:[2]

“Procrastination is to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay.”

In other words, procrastination is doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones. The end result is that important tasks are put off to a later time.

This comic is one of the typical examples of procrastination:

    Why stopping procrastination is difficult

    Human beings have limited self-control. Dr. Roy Baumeister, a psychologist from Florida State University, has been studying self-control and he has found that just like any muscles, human’s self-control is a limited resource that can quickly become exhausted.[3] When self-control is close to being depleted, human tend to choose what’s more pleasurable– the immediate procrastinated tasks instead of the actual works.

    At its core, procrastination is an avoidance strategy. Procrastinators choose to do something else instead of doing what they need to do because it’s much easier to choose pleasure over pain.

    In short, procrastination is so difficult to beat because it is a battle against human’s natural enemy, a human weakness that is in-born.

    Advertising

    A step-by-step guide to stop procrastinating

    Despite the fact that it’s human nature to seek for immediate rewards and procrastinate, here I have a step-by-step guide for you to follow so as to stop procrastinating.

    1. Identify your triggers: the 5 types of procrastinator

    Identifying the type of procrastination you personally experience is an essential step for you to fix the problem at its root.

    Take a look at this flowchart here to find out what type of procrastinator you are:

      Which type of procrastinator are you? Let’s take a look at the triggers for your procrastination type:

      Perfectionist

      Being perfect is the pleasure perfectionists want. But often this leads to them being too scared to show any imperfections. Because of this, they frequently fail to complete things, as they’re forever seeking the perfect timing or approach. Tasks end up never being completed, because in the eyes of the perfectionist, things are never perfect enough.

      Instead of finishing something, perfectionists get caught up in a never-ending cycle of additions, edits, and deletions.

      Ostrich

      An ostrich prefers to stay in the dreaming stage. That way, they don’t have to work for real, or deal with any negativity or stress.

      Dreaming gives this type of people a false sense of achievement, as in their minds, they envision big, ambitious plans. Unfortunately for them, these plans will most likely stay as dreams, and they’ll never accomplish anything truly worthwhile.

      Self-saboteur

      A self-saboteur has bought into the line that ‘by doing nothing, bad things won’t happen.’

      In reality, self-saboteurs have developed a fear of making mistakes or doing anything wrong. Their way to avoid these mishaps, is to do nothing at all. In the end, they may make few mistakes – but they also see few accomplishments.

      Advertising

      Daredevil

      Daredevils are those who believe that deadlines can push them to do better. Instead of having a schedule to complete their work – they prefer to enjoy time doing their own thing before the deadline comes around.

      It’s most likely an unconscious thing, but daredevils evidently believe that starting early will sacrifice their time for pleasure. This is reinforced in their minds and feelings, by the many times they manage to get away with burning the midnight oil. Often they sacrifice the quality of their work because of rushing it.

      Chicken

      Chickens lack the ability to prioritize their work. They do what they feel like they should do, rather than thinking through what they really need to do.

      Prioritizing tasks is a step that takes extra time, so chicken will feel it’s not worth it. Because of this, they usually end up doing a lot of effortless tasks that don’t contribute much to a project. They’re incessantly busy on low-impact tasks, but seem oblivious to urgent, high-impact tasks.

      2. Face your triggers and get rid of them

      Whether it’s fear of failure, overwhelming feelings, avoidance or convincing yourself you’re just too busy to get something done, you can improve your ability to be productive by eliminating your procrastination triggers.

      For Perfectionists, re-clarify your goals.

      Much of the time procrastination tendencies form simply because we’ve outgrown our goals. We’re ever-changing and so are our wants in life. Try looking over your goals and ask yourself if they’re still what you want.

      Take time out to regroup and ask yourself what you really want to achieve:

      • What steps do you need to take?
      • Is what you’re currently doing reflecting what you want?
      • What do you need to change?

      Write things down, scribble them out and rewrite.

      For Ostriches, do the difficult tasks first.

      Even if you feel you’re not a morning person, the beginning of the day is when your brain is most productive. Use this window of time to get the more difficult stuff done.

      If you leave your difficult tasks to later, you’re much more likely to put it off because you’re tired and lack motivation.

      Finishing lots of simple tasks at the beginning of the day such as reading all the new emails only gives you a false sense of being productive.

      Advertising

      For Self-saboteurs, write out a to-do (and a not–to-do) list each day.

      Writing things down is powerful and psychologically increases your need to get things done.

      Each day, make a habit of creating a list of the tasks you know you’ll try and avoid. By doing this, it brings these ‘difficult’ tasks to your mind’s attention instead of keeping them locked away somewhere in your avoidance mode.

      Remember, think how satisfying and productive it feels to cross of a completed task.

      For Daredevils, create a timeline with deadlines.

      It’s common to have a deadline for a goal which seems like a good idea. But this is basically an open invitation for procrastination.

      If it’s a self-created deadline with no pressure, we tend to justify pushing it back each time it comes into sight and feel we haven’t yet done ‘enough’ to get there.

      Create a bigger timeline then within that, establish deadlines along the way. The beauty of this comes when each deadline completion is dependent on the next. It keeps you on track and keeps you accountable for being in alignment with the overall timeline.

      For Chickens, break tasks into bite-sized pieces.

      A lot of the time procrastination comes from overwhelming thoughts.

      If something feels too big to tackle and we don’t know where to start, it feels like a struggle. This is also true if our goal is too vague and lacking direction.

      Break down larger tasks into smaller ones and turn them into daily or weekly goals. Smaller steps may seem like the slower approach to achieving a goal, but it often leads you much more quickly to where you want to be due to the powerful momentum you get going.

      3. Take planned breaks

      The human brain isn’t designed to work continuously on the same task and this could be a reason for procrastination.

      Make sure you take regular, structured breaks away from your task so that you can come back refreshed and ready to be more productive.

      Advertising

      A break as short as 5 minutes is enough to keep your mind sharp and wards off fatigue. I recommend you to use the Pomodoro Time Tracker. It is a great tool to help you take breaks at set intervals. Simply start the 25-minute timer, and follow the prompts.

        4.  Reward yourself

        It’s important to acknowledge and reward yourself for achieving even the small tasks. It creates a sense of motivation and releases those feel-good, productive emotions that spur you on to achieve even more.

        Make your reward proportional to the task you completed so getting a bite-sized task done gets you a cup of your favourite coffee or snack. Then plan a weekend away or fun activity for the bigger stuff.

        Personally I try to make staying focus more fun by using the app Forest. It turns productivity into a game. In the game, you can plant a virtual tree at the beginning of your work time. If you maintain focus for the duration of the timer, you’ll grow a tree to add to your forest. It’s rewarding when you can eventually grow a forest.

          5. Keep track of your time in a smart way

          If you want to prevent the bad habit of procrastination from coming back, keep track of the time you spend every day.

          By having a clear idea of where you spend your time, you can always review your productivity and know which areas to improve.

          It’s not easy to keep track of every minute you spend throughout the day so I recommend you to use the app Rescue Time.

          It gets you a categorized breakdown of how you spend your time and helps you to find out how much time you’re really on-task. You can even label activities as productive and non-productive so as to block your biggest distractions.

            Make procrastination under your control

            Procrastination exists for many reasons and only you know for yourself what these triggers are.

            Understanding what procrastination really is and the source of your avoidance tendencies is important in moving them out of the way and help you start the productivity momentum.

            Reference

            Read Next