Five Tips to Quiet the Roar in a Noisy World

Uncategorized Feb 23, 2021

What do you do when you’re answering emails and suddenly the phone rings? Do you answer it and try to speak to the person while you finish your emails? Then the doorbell chimes. Do you go to the door while still on the phone, even though there’s a 98% chance it’s just a package delivery?

 An uber common one in these work-from-home days is working on something while “listening” to a meeting “in the background”.

The one I’m most guilty of is actually self-inflicted!  I’m working on something and it gets hard, so I pick up my phone to give my brain a break (or so I tell myself).  In one of those weird coincidences, I just did that when a text came in from my girlfriend in Texas.  They got a dusting of snow and the world is ending!  Isn’t that cute (as I say from my Michigan home, staring at the 8 inches of snow we got last night…).  But the point is, I texted for a few minutes instead of writing this article.  Oh the irony…

Whenever those inevitable distractions come along, we have some decisions to make.

We live in a world where multitasking is commonplace. But is it the most efficient use of our time?

Spoiler alert – no it isn’t.

The Multitasking Myth

A number of states have already made it illegal to talk on your cell phone and drive at the same time. Some states won’t even allow you to drive and eat at the same time! These laws are based on the fact that if your focus is divided, accidents are more likely to happen. 

Recent studies have also shown that when people are forced to change gears in the middle of a task, valuable time is lost. The more complex the task, the more time is lost. The lost time is the time that’s usually spent by the frontal lobe of your brain making decisions and establishing priorities.

So, when you multitask, rather than getting a lot more accomplished, you’ll find that the quality of your work diminishes significantly while important tasks actually take longer 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need ANY task to take longer, let alone the important ones!

Single-Tasking: The Alternative

Just for argument’s sake, try spending one day where all you do is focus all your energy on one task at a time. You may be surprised to discover that you’re making significantly more progress than usual as you tackle one job at a time without interruption.

And you know what’s the perfect day to try this?  Monday, February 22nd.  Why? Because it’s National Single Tasking Day.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking.  A day without interruption?  “That’s easier said than done.” After all, we live in a world that can be more distraction than substance, if we let it.

Are you willing to give it a try with me?

If so, here are some tips to help you gain the advantage of single-tasking:

  1. Create a to-do list. Have categories on the list for home, work, etc. I even have a category for 15-minutes or less tasks. That way, when I have just a few minutes, I can tackle one of those instead of trying to start something more complex and being forced to stop. Once you’re looking at a list of your to-dos, write the items on your list in order of priority, or just pull out the three most important ones. The three things that, if the rest of the day goes sideways, you can feel good about having done.
  • Organizing your tasks will help you see everything you have to do and give you a definite place to start.

  1. Keep a notebook handy. If ideas for another task come while you’re working on something else, jot them down quickly so you can continue concentrating on your current project. You won’t have to worry about forgetting your ideas and thoughts later. Although I have gone largely digital, I still have a small paper planner that I use just to capture those random ideas. My mind works in mysterious ways, so I never want to forget that awesome gift idea I just thought of for my brother-in-law’s retirement... even if it came to me while I was making dinner.
  2. Tune out distractions. If possible, turn off your phone or shut down your computer if they’re diverting you away from your present task. Heck, I even have to throttle down my smart watch so it doesn’t distract me.  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that if I even touch my phone for a good reason (say to use the calculator) I will spend extra minutes being distracted by all the other functions on it.
  • If you feel the urge to check your email, simply take a deep breath and continue working. Don’t worry; your email is not going anywhere! It will still be there in the same place when you finish your current task.
  1. Plan your day in blocks of time. Depending on the number of tasks you have to do this can be in hour-long blocks or just 20 minutes.
  • Make sure you leave some blocks open for unexpected situations that may arise. Michael Hyatt calls this margin. If there is no margin in your calendar, you will always be forced to multi-task, just to take care of all the little things that arise on any given day.
     
  1. Every now and then, take inventory. When you’ve completed a task successfully and have a few minutes to spare, use that time to check your inbox for any new situations that may have come up.
  • You can then re-prioritize your to-do list if necessary.

Single-tasking might take some time to get used to, especially if you’re accustomed to working on multiple projects at one time. However, focusing your efforts on a single task will help you think more clearly and determine what steps must be completed.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of ideas but these tips will help you get started with single-tasking. Multitasking can be very stressful. Wouldn’t it be nice to make your life a little less chaotic? Single-tasking can do a world of good for your emotional, mental, and even physical well-being.  It’s the sane alternative to multitasking!

Leaving you with this from the lighter side:  Is it officially multi-tasking if I am listening, ignoring, and talking under my breath at the same time?

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