In my last blog post I gave you five reasons why multitasking actually stops you getting things done. William James, often called the father of psychology, said “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging-on of an uncompleted task”; switching to single-tasking will swap that fatigue for the satisfaction of completion! Here are five tips to start you on the road to focus:
1. Let go of your distractions
Start with one small change and stick to it. It can be as small as eating your breakfast while resisting the temptation to look at your phone at the same time. As you learn to control your attention in one area, widen it out to other activities.
2. Ditch the Tab buffet
How many tabs have you got open on your browser right now? The more tabs you have, the more you are mentally juggling. Pick one day a week (or just a morning, if that seems too hard) to go single-tab. You'll develop your ability to extract what you need from a page and leave it behind.
3. Work in Bundles
The biggest drain on mental resources is switching between unrelated tasks, so batch up your similar tasks into blocks of work. Put all reading and research together; book meetings and conference calls back to back. Then arrange the bundles into your diary. For a simple start, create one block of time for clearing email backlogs and another for thinking and problem-solving.
4. Save your Thoughts and Move on
When you do get a stray but interesting idea, record it immediately. Without the worry of forgetting, you can then return to the task at hand. It doesn't matter how you do this – physical notebook, phone app, voice note – as long as you make it a habit. Professional writers have known about this for years.
5. Make the Uncertain, Certain
Concentrating on one task can feel daunting because you don't know how long it will take. So set a timer and tell yourself you will work on it until the timer goes off. If you like working to music, you could use a particular album or playlist instead.
Focusing on one task can seem impossible at first if you are used to tending to distractions, but even taking baby steps can bring encouraging results. So be persistent and soon you will feel more productive and more relaxed. Then your focus can turn to how to reward your success... which I'll leave up to you!