Last night as I was headed up to bed, I thought to myself, “Did I get the coffee ready for tomorrow?”.
The answer was yes. Yes I had gotten the coffee ready for tomorrow. The reason I couldn’t remember if I had or not was because I was on the phone with my mother while doing it. I was multi-tasking.
Then I thought about all the other times I multi-task and came up with a long list. I open a dozen tabs or more on my browser, toggling back and forth between them. I fold laundry while talking on the phone. I scroll through Instagram when I take James in the backyard. I turn down the kids’ beds while I brush my teeth. I answer Facebook messages while cooking dinner.
Can you relate?
We’re taught that multi-tasking is good, that we’re being super productive. But really, it’s the opposite.
When you multi-task, you split your brain in half and program it to have a short attention span. This leads to feeling frazzled and having “senior moments”, no matter what your age is.
Multi-tasking seems to have become our standard operating procedure. So how do we stop doing it?
How to single task
First, let’s talk about why we should single task.
There are many benefits to single tasking, but here are just a few:
- Focus: When you’re focused, you perform better and faster. Single tasking creates real productivity.
- Less stress: Doing just one thing at a time means you manage your time better and are less likely to get off track, fall behind, or run late.
- Deeper enjoyment: Being immersed in one task allows us to have a full sensory experience. We see, hear, taste, touch, and feel at full capacity.
Now let’s talk about how to single task.
I don’t know about you, but I have a much easier time single tasking offline than I do online. It’s not too hard for me to ditch my phone while I get dinner ready or fold laundry. I can quickly train myself to just brush my teeth, instead of cleaning up the bathroom or turning down beds while doing it. And I immediately notice how clear my mind feels while doing just one thing. Zen. :)
But the minute I get on the Internet? I turn into multi-tasking Mary. It’s difficult for me to focus on the one thing I really need to do. I check email, Facebook, and Pinterest at the same time. That usually leads to my going down a big rabbit hole, sometimes for more than an hour. Then I think, “What did I even need to do?” and I can’t remember.
Luckily, I’ve found some pretty nifty ways to keep myself honest about single tasking online.
4 Ways to Single Task Like a Champ
Write a good old fashioned to-do list:
Grab a notebook and write down the things you need to do today. Seeing your tasks on paper will keep you on track and give you great satisfaction when you cross them off. When your to-do’s are done, reward yourself with some fun time online.
Score bonus single tasking points by making your daily to-do list the night before. It’ll clear your mind and help you sleep better.
Rescue your time:
RescueTime is an app that you install on your computer. It tracks the time you spend on applications and websites, and gives you an eye-opening look at what you do all day.
My favorite thing about RescueTime is that it allows you to block distracting websites for a set amount of “focus time”. When I do this for even just thirty minutes, I get so much done. I also love the alert feature, which alerts you to how much time you’ve spent on a particular activity. I try to spend an hour or less per day on social media, and RescueTime will ping me when I’m close to that.
Pause your inbox:
Have you ever been replying to emails in your inbox and had another one come in at the same time? You’re not alone. :)
Inbox Pause can change all that. It’s a pause button that you add to your Gmail. When you click that button, Inbox Pause will “hold” your new messages in a special folder so they stop arriving in your inbox. You can blast through your emails without any more coming in! Then, when you’re done, just click the unpause button to receive the emails that came in while paused.
Turn off notifications:
One of the biggest distractions online is the constant stream of notifications. Got a new email? Ding. New Facebook message? Ping. Someone mention you in a tweet? Ring.
An easy way to eliminate this problem is to turn off all notifications. Adjust your settings on social media so you don’t receive an email every time someone updates their relationship status. ;)
Here’s how to do that for the top social media sites:
Ok, so are you ready to give single tasking a try? Let me know in the comments and be sure to share any tips you have for how to do it.