Multitasking doesn’t actually work the way most people think it does. In general, the human brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you think you’re seamlessly accomplishing five tasks at once, your brain is actually flipping its focus back and forth between the different activities so you’re really not grasping everything that’s going on with each activity. Even though you may think you’re a multitasking pro, you likely will increase your productivity by actually just using all of your focus to complete one task at hand.
Here are 10 simple principles to keep in mind if you want to learn how to stop multitasking and get truly productive:
1. Finish the task you’re on before you start on another
Instead of drafting a work email while talking to another client on the phone, choose one activity to concentrate on so that you can accomplish the task efficiently and in a timely manner. If sending the email right now is more urgent, let the client’s call go to voicemail and then return the call later. Conversely, if the email can wait, give your client your undivided attention and then once that situation has been taken care of go ahead and finish up the email.
We often fool ourselves into thinking we’re being so productive by working on ten things at once, but most of the time we either take longer to complete everything or just produce mediocre results across the board. Do well on each individual project that needs done by taking one task at a time.
2. Wherever you are, be there
If you’re at church with your family, focus on the services rather than thinking about what work you have to get done around the house once you get home. If you’re at the office, focus on getting your report done rather than having an Internet browser open for doing some online shopping, too. When it’s time to worship, worship. When it’s time to work, work. When it’s time to play, play.
3. Put your phone on silent
If you’re the kind of person who gets derailed from being productive every time your phone makes a noise, change the device’s settings. Turn your phone on silent or, when you’re really serious about getting work done, just turn it off so you can’t even sneak a quick peek. We tend to be really good at deluding ourselves when justifying, “I’ll just send a quick reply right now,” and then we wind up texting back and forth for an hour instead of finishing up whatever we were supposed to be working on.
4. Turn off the television
When you’re trying to complete a task, it’s easy to reason that a little bit of background noise won’t interfere with your productivity, but don’t be fooled. If you’re the type to turn on the TV while folding laundry but end up doing a lot more watching and a lot less folding than you anticipated, just keep the entertainment device off. Instead of taking an hour to wash the dishes while you watch a show, load the dishwasher in ten minutes and then give yourself a needed break later on when you need to get off of your feet.
5. Limit the number of times you can daily check Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.
If you’re prone to having a quick glance at Facebook turn into hours of clicking through all sorts of shared links, go ahead and set limits on your personal usage so you can help ensure that the guise of multitasking isn’t prohibiting your true level of getting things done.
6. If you’re reviewing a document in audio form or listening to a speaker, read along or take notes
This obviously won’t work for every situation, but if you have an audio to listen to with the transcript, prevent your brain from trying to multitask by reading the text along with the auditory version.
If you’re in a work meeting or some other lecture setting, take notes to help keep you plugged in to what’s going on in the present so your brain won’t wander off.
7. Put down or turn off all of your devices while you eat
We commonly try to multitask when feeding our bodies by watching a movie or playing an electronic game during dinner to entertain our minds. The problem with diet-related multitasking is that we often end up overeating this way since we have a harder time recognizing when we’re actually full. For your digestive tract’s productivity and for your overall health, eat at mealtimes without entertainment’s distractions.
8. Listen when your loved ones are talking
Instead of reading a book, writing a grocery list or scrolling through your apps while your friends and family members are talking, just listen. The health of your relationships can greatly improve since your multitasking efforts are bound to produce dissatisfied individuals who constantly catch you missing what they’re saying. Be active and present in your conversations, showing care, concern and interest.
9. Don’t text and drive
You may not even want to talk on the phone and drive, but your brain is definitely incapable of guaranteeing the safety of you, your passengers and fellow drivers when you’re engrossed in a texting conversation and are blinded to the driving conditions on the road. Be safe and help others be safe. If you’re expecting an urgent text and you hear your phone go off, pull off to the side of the road or find somewhere to park so that you can properly tend to the situation without endangering yourself and those around you.
10. Tell your cares goodnight and go to sleep
Turning your brain off at night can be one of the hardest multitasking strategies to let go of, but when it’s time to sleep, do your best to let your worries and thoughts not keep you up. Your body and mind need a good rest tonight in order to perform well tomorrow so stop multitasking at bedtime and start seeing the benefits.