Since it’s #SingleTaskingDay, we thought we’d look at why it’s important to stick to one job at a time.
According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), multi-taskers do less and miss information more than single taskers.
After being distracted, say by an email that comes out of the blue, it takes an average of 15 minutes to get back into the groove of the task you were doing and our efficiency can drop by as much as 40%. It seems our brains don’t like switching back and forth between different tasks.
Of course as we’re working, we’re also fighting a deluge of social media prompts, trying to convince us that what’s happening on Facebook or Twitter is more important than the project in front of us.
So how do you get yourself back on track? The HBR says to stick with one item until completion. If you absolutely have to switch to a new task, write yourself a little note about your progress with the old one. You know, in the same way that TV shows will tell you what happened in the last episode before the new one starts.
Yet I think there’s another reason to ‘single task’. I’m wondering if it might be a key to a time machine. A machine called #mindfulness – the art of paying attention to where you’re paying attention.
When you pay attention to things, when you’re deliberate and thoughtful about what you do, time seems to slow down. Somehow, and it’s a bit peculiar, but you get these little moments of serenity, pools of peacefulness, because you’re not thinking about what you should be doing, you are paying attention to how you’re doing it.
Here’s an exercise in awareness and being in the moment. The next time you make a cup of tea in the office, think about each individual stage. Notice yourself taking a mug out of the cupboard; realise that you’re opening the office fridge to reach down for the milk. Pour water from the kettle carefully. Let it flow.
Don’t hurry, don’t treat making the tea as an obstacle to get out of the way. Think of it as practise concentration. If you do this often enough, something will click.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re making tea, photocopying documents or working with Excel. If you pay attention, if you realise that only one thing is important and that is the single task at hand, you’ll be more productive and find your own moments of calm in a hectic office.
Don’t work fast, work right.