We've all heard of multi-tasking, and most of us are guilty of trying to juggle multiple projects at once. The lesser-known practice of single-tasking involves focusing single-mindedly on one thing at a time, and has been show to increase productivity and help you focus. Follow the steps below to improve your single-tasking skills.
Improve your focus with regular meditation
Meditation is a wonderful way to practice concentrating on one thing at a time. As you focus on the movement of your breathing, you'll likely find yourself distracted by thoughts. You'll practice coming back to the breath over and over again, and eventually you won't suffer from so many distractions. This technique of continually coming back can be applied to work – no matter how much you get distracted by other things, keep returning to the task at hand. It will be hard at first, but will become second nature over time. Think of single-tasking as a muscle you need to strengthen, and look at meditation as your exercise routine.
Use a Pomodoro timer
Creating a distinct separation between work and leisure is an important part of single-tasking. It's not just work you need to give your full attention to, but relaxation time as well. By taking the time to fully savour your breaks, you'll return to your work more refreshed.
The Pomodoro technique involves writing down the task you plan to work on, setting a timer for 25 minutes, and working for this entire time. Any time you're tempted to do something else, write it down and go back to your work. This means you won't forget any important tasks, but you won't let them interrupt your flow either. Once the timer is up, set it for 5 minutes and focus completely on taking a break. Repeat for as long as you need to, giving yourself a 15 -minute break on the fourth cycle.
During your break, you shouldn't be working at all, which is often harder than it sounds. Don't allow yourself to read through your to-do list, quickly reply that one email, or check your progress on a piece of work. If possible, step away from all technology and take a stroll outdoors.
Download distraction blocking software
The Pomodoro technique only works if you don't give in to distraction, and that can be tricky, especially when working on a computer. Download software to help – you might get a browser add-on that blocks certain sites you know are time wasters, or use a writing software that fills your entire screen and doesn't allow you to access menus or other programs. If you find yourself distracted by your phone or tablet, try the Forest app. This allows you to plant trees which slowly grow over the course of a set time. If you use your device, the tree dies. This is a simple but effective way to remind yourself not to get off track.
If you're feeling burnt out by constant multi-tasking, then give single-tasking a try. You might be surprised at how much more you can achieve.