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Multitasking? Stop it!

For a long time I considered myself an expert at multi-tasking.  I often would be working on 3 or more tasks at the same time, thinking I was being productive.  As a single mum and small business owner I figured multi-tasking the best way of getting everything done.  Wrong!

It made me constantly stressed and tired.  I made mistakes that I then beat myself up about, and, worst of all, I often over cooked or burnt dinner.

Then one day I read a list of “Zen things” and at the top of the list was “Do one thing at a time”.  I started putting this into practice and discovered that I was much more efficient and productive, made less mistakes and produced better quality results (and meals).  Admittedly, it took me a while to develop this new habit and even now I sometimes have to remind myself to stay focused, but it has been well worth the effort.

I did some research to find if other people had similar results and here’s what I found….

When we multi-task we are not actually working simultaneously on multiple tasks we are actually shifting our attention from task to task.  Each time we shift between tasks it takes time for our brain to refocus on the “rules” of the new task.  This lost time adds up throughout the day.  Then we lose more time because constantly having to refocus on each new task increases the demand on our brain making us think and work more slowly.

This constant shifting of attention creates bad habits for our brain making it difficult concentrate.  We are more prone to making mistakes and we are less able to tune out distractions even when we are only working on one task.

When we focus on one task at a time we potentially get into “the zone” where our actions start to be automatic and then faster and more efficient.  Saving us time and freeing up mental energy.

Of course, life is not perfect, so sometimes we will be interrupted by phone calls and demands of children etc. or our schedule may demand that we move onto another task before completing the previous one.  But as we practise focussing on one thing at a time, we also become better at changing our focus to a new task when circumstances require us to.

Here are some tips to help you stay focused on one thing at a time.

  • Avoid distractions; switch off the TV, turn off notifications on your phone or computer.
  • Set aside time to deal with emails and social media. Avoid the temptation to read and respond immediately.
  • If you are working on multiple projects, consider allocating 20 -30 minutes to one task before switching to the next task.

So… Try doing one thing at a time and enjoy your new efficiency!

Kinesiology offers many other techniques to help relieve stress find out more here.

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