Are you reading this article while watching the TV or engaged on Facebook/ Twitter? Multi-tasking has become a norm in our lives. However, rather than help us get more done, it actually does the opposite – it leads to more mistakes, poorer choices and greater stress.
So, if you are looking to improve your productivity, one of the first things is to learn to single-task instead of multi-task.
Why is Multi-Tasking so Damaging?
In The ONE Thing by Gary Keller, he explains that:
• When we multi-task, we are actually switching between tasks. For example, a juggler doesn’t multi-task; he simply catches and throws the balls individually in rapid succession. Since our brain can only focus on one thing at a time, we lose time and energy each time we switch tasks (and re-orientate to the “rules” for the new task). In short, task-switching costs us.
• Multi-tasking divides our attention over the various tasks, hence reducing our effectiveness for each task.
Obviously, we can’t avoid multi-tasking in a typical day (e.g. answering a phone call while making our morning coffee). However, if we expect professionals like pilots and surgeons to focus fully on their tasks, we should likewise give our most important work our undivided attention.
Do One Thing at a Time, and Do the Most Important Things
1. Identifying your most important work
With a gazillion tasks to complete in a day, how do you decide which ones to focus on? Well, use this extremely powerful focusing question by Gary Keller in The ONE Thing:
Use this question to identify the top 20% of tasks that are most critical, then the top 20% of these tasks, and so on, until you find that ONE thing that should matter the most right now. Once you have found it, keep hammering away at it until the task is done.
2. Make or Create time for your most important work
Don’t try to manage your time and squeeze in your priorities. Make time for these most important priorities – you would find this to be a key principle highlighted in all the success classics such as The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The Effective Executive etc.
Gary Keller recommends that you set aside time in this order of priority:
If you want to take it further and make the MOST of the hours that you’ve set aside for your one thing, then you should also learn to Get in the Go Zone. In his book, Mark McKeon teaches you how to create time by carving out your time into 3 zones : the Go Zone (when you are performing at your peak), the No Zone (when you totally enjoy yourself, recover, recharge and refresh) and the Slow Zone (when you are in your default cruising mode, performing less effectively but with less stress).
Before you enter in to the Go Zone, you should have prepared a list of truly important tasks to focus on, prioritized in order of importance. Once you are in the zone, your singular focus is to complete 1 task at a time, until the timer sounds.
In short, set aside a non-negotiable, regular time slot where you are totally free from distractions, focusing on completing one thing at a time. Mark also shares tips on how to create a distinct transition in and out of the Go Zone, much like a ritual.
There are quite a few powerful ideas packed into this article. So, what’s the one thing you can do to get started? Here are 3 suggestions on possible next steps – choose at least one, and take the next 10-15 min to get started on it right away:
• Use the focusing question to identify the top 10-20 items of priority, then narrow down to the ONE Thing that you should focus on;
• Set aside 1-2 hours within the next 2-3 days, when you will commit to trying out the Go Zone concept. Make time to read up about the Go Zone prior to the session.
• Identify the idea / tip that resonates the most with you in this article, and read the summary/ reading graphic/ book to understand the idea better.