- 70 tabs open on your phone, plus another 30 on your laptop.
- 4 magazines you’ve flicking through, rereading the same articles over and over again.
- 3 books on the go at once. You pick one up, can’t remember any of the character’s back stories, think about starting again, but instead grab a magazine (vicious circle: see above).
- Zoning out during a phone call, agreeing with the speaker whilst your brain says ‘Ummm, what are we talking about again?!’ Why? Because you’re writing your to-do list at the same time.
…And I haven’t even mentioned the billion things we do with our phones in hand (watching TV, walking down the street, eating, ‘sleeping’…)
Benefits of single tasking
For so many years, we’ve been fed the belief that multi-tasking is the smartest, quickest way to get through our days and accomplish our goals. But I am here to politely disagree. All multitasking does is tire us out, leaving us with half finished tasks and no real sense of achievement. So I’ve been trying out Just One Thing as my mini mantra this past month & I’ve got to say – I like it. It may seem counterintuitive but you actually end up taking less time to do things. Remove the constant distractions and it’s far easier to focus and Get. Things. Done. There’s also generally a whole lot less confusion in that muddled little brain, far less ‘Wait, where was I? What am I doing? Why am I doing it?’ It’s far more satisfying than multi-tasking because you’re not kidding yourself you can do All The Things; you’re instead only focusing on the most important bits.
How to single task
What single tasking looks like for me is this:
When I call someone, I consciously plan the time out of my day. So: not whilst I’m walking to/from work and therefore distracted by the many people surrounding me. Much nicer to have a cup of tea in hand and no ‘cut-off time’ to our chat.
When I’m writing, that’s all that I’m doing. I don’t have a billion tabs open calling to me to ‘just check this one thing quickly’. It’s such a simple concept, almost patronisingly so, but believe me – it’s not easy. Sometimes I also leave my phone in another room whilst I’m working so I’m not tempted to pick it up to check these *vital* things.
Writing a to-do list for the week in my diary every Sunday night. This helps remind me where to put my focus, otherwise I’m halfway through one task, remember something else I should be doing, start that instead and end up with two (or three, four, ten…) unfinished jobs indeed. Not ideal.
Taking a split second before consuming anything online to ask myself: ‘Do I really want to read this? Will this help move me towards my overall goals? Is it something I’m actually interested in?’ I’m working on unsubscribing from newsletters I’m no longer interested in, and really taking the time to settle down with the ones I do love and gain something from.
Related to this, I’m trying *really* hard to read only one book/magazine at a time. I’m a huge reader and am also guilty of being distracted my the newest magazine on the shelf or the latest book I can pick up from the library, so this one is especially tricky for me.
Lastly, because sleep is so important to making me a functioning human, I close my laptop and switch off the wifi on my phone at 10pm each night. Getting myself ready for a good night’s sleep counts as my Just One Thing.
Just One Thing is not easy
It’s really not. In a world which so loves us to do more, consume more, work more, it’s hard to create a new set of rules for yourself when people and pop-ups will always vie for our attention. Perhaps just focus on having only one thing that is your One Thing. So, maybe it’s just when you’re working that you’re not also on social media, or maybe your commute is less about catching up on emails and more about noticing the journey you’re taking. Whatever it is, I promise it will help clear your mind and get you into that infamous ‘flow’ far better than multitasking ever will.
Are you convinced by the notion of single tasking & doing Just One Thing? If so, how else do you deal with the constant distractions pulling our attention elsewhere? Let me know in the comments!
All images: Death to the Stock photos