The Significance of Single Tasking

Frustrated women at work


We live in a world of multitasking. There is so much to do the only way to get it all done is to do more than one thing at a time. In business, multi-tasking is rewarded—or revered, as a sacred tool in your skill set. Who wouldn’t want to get more done—faster? Multitasking makes sense—that is—if productivity is the primary measure of success. Besides, multitasking makes you feel better, right?

I would argue it only makes you feel better psychologically and studies indicate that it actually isn’t good for you. For example, in my research this week, I read an article titled, Multitasking vs. Single Tasking: Which is More Effective. The article cited Jim Taylor, Ph.D. and his article, Technology: Myth of Multitasking (Psychology Today). Taylor said, “There is no such thing as multitasking.” His explanation? Taylor says when people think they’re doing multiple things at once, what they are actually doing is serial tasking. That is, "shifting from one task to another in rapid succession.”

Other research I studied concluded that whether we believe it our not, our minds can only effectively focus on one task at a time, of the same type, based on how the brain works. The research asserted that “if your concentration is being constantly broken and redirected to different tasks, this expends more energy, and takes more time to complete the tasks.” Other experts claim multitasking causes brain drain, cognitive overload, stress, mental decline over time, and actually reduces efficiency, and thus, productivity.

“People who want to move mountains must
start by carrying away small stones.”

                                                                                          Author Unknown
But I’m not going to argue the virtues or drawbacks of multi-tasking here—because we all have our own work styles in a world where we’re bombarded with phone calls, text messages, emails, social media distractions, a multitude of work assignments and on and on. Today, I simply want to suggest that, at our core, we’re all wired to single task. I fundamentally believe our life has the potential to be sweeter, more fulfilling, when we do ONE thing at a time, like a painter and his canvas. And experts agree that single tasking can lead to better and more satisfying outcomes.

Research also verified that there is a connection between single tasking and creativity. Performing one creative task at a time led to achieving greater creativity and a more pleasing outcome. Why? A singular focus, enhanced concentration, and less distractions help us dig deep to create and deliver astonishing results.

The question we must ask ourselves is simple. How do we slow our lives down enough to single task when we face a mountain of work? The answer may be different for all of us because our lives, jobs, and circumstances are vastly different. So, only you can answer this question.

Nevertheless, when we have the opportunity to single task—and take it—we stand a better chance of enjoying more fulfilling work, greater efficiency, and less stress. And isn’t this the way it should be?

Now if you will excuse me, I have a single task to perform—with a Snickers bar.


SOMETHING TO CHEW ON:  One way to pause more and rush less is to do ONE thing at a time. Try it. Next week consciously focus on performing a SINGLE task at a time and see if you enjoy it more, have greater concentration, and enjoy a better or more satisfying outcome.
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY: Here is a link to an article you might appreciate. It’s called, Single Tasking: How to Focus on One Thing at a Time, Get More Done, and Feel Less Stressed.
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