6 Ways to Increase Focus and Celebrate Single Tasking

Student studying in coffee shop.

Sunday, February 21… Single Tasking Day.

According to the Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth:

We are all too familiar with multitasking, but rarely do we focus on one task at a time, or single tasking. Cognitive testing and brain imaging research reveals that multitasking can cause shallower thinking, increased errors, and a dramatic negative decrease on mental processing. On Sunday, instead of multitasking, strive to perform tasks sequentially and remember to focus on one task at a time, even if for only short periods of time. 

While this challenge should seem so easy, in today’s world it’s practically unheard of. Not only are most of us walking around with multiple devices that can connect to a huge variety of people and places, but we also have access to greater amounts of information than most of our great grandparents would have received throughout their entire lives!

This deluge of information, if not controlled, can have quite a negative impact on our abilities; the skill of being able to block out distractions is essential for high productivity. In fact, a 2005 study revealed that employees who spent about 11 minutes on a project before being distracted took about 25 minutes to return to the original task, if they returned to the original task at all. This information would hold true whether a person was working in an office, a student was doing schoolwork or studying, or simply working to complete a task of a different nature.

There are, however, strategies that can be used that may improve your ability to concentrate, and help you remove the many distractions that can arise on a daily basis. Try these the next time you have trouble completing a task:

  • Remove all communication devices from your work area so there will be fewer opportunities to lose focus. That would include any technology, such as television, music, or phone that is not essential for the task itself. Should some type of technology be an integral component of the project, such as a computer, make a commitment to yourself not to check emails or use any type of social media while completing the work.
  • Decide how long you will work, and when, and how long, breaks may last. Try using a timer so you know when it’s time to work, when it’s time for a break, and when it’s time to get back to work again.
  • Eat a snack before sitting down to work, or have an “easy to eat” snack nearby. Your brain needs nourishment to get work done!
  • Start using mindful listening to train yourself to stop mental ruminations before they are able to get out of hand. List, in your mind, the sounds you hear around you. This will help your brain break the habit of a wandering mind.
  • Practice mindful breathing by focusing on your nose, chest, or belly; notice how the air feels with each inhale and each exhale. As your mind starts to wander, just go back to paying attention to your breath.
  • Make sure you get a good night’s sleep each night. A well-rested body and mind will allow you to function to your best ability, and that includes staying focused while completing tasks.

Whether you decided to focus on one job at a time on Single Tasking Day or not, make it a goal to decrease distractions and improve focus and attention. Enjoy accomplishing more, doing a better job on each undertaking, and spending less time on every assignment.

Now that’s something to celebrate!

Dr. W

 

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