The Power of Single-Tasking in the Workplace

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August 21, 2019
Author: Ben Halverson
Organization: Lorman Education Service

In workplace environments around, multitasking has become the name of the game. An increasing number of professionals feel the need to do it all--often all at the same time. What many workplaces are discovering, however, is that multitasking fails to benefit many workplaces or employees--and in fact, in many cases, it can cause more harm than good. Multitasking can increase stress, decrease memory, and increase the likelihood that you will grow distracted or even do something dangerous while trying to focus on another activity. Instead, many workplaces are turning to single-tasking to transform the way their employees accomplish and meet their goals. 

What is Single-Tasking?

Single-tasking is, at its heart, exactly what it sounds like: focusing on one activity at a time, rather than allowing distraction from dozens of different activities to tug at an individual's attention at any given moment. Where multitasking encourages people to have several things going on at the same time or to bounce back and forth between different activities, single-tasking requires focus on a single task at a time, often seeing it through to completion. 

What Does Single-Tasking Accomplish?

Many workers find that single-tasking has a number of important advantages--and over time, those benefits become increasingly obvious in most workplaces. Consider:

1. Single-tasking actually saves time.

Often, while multitasking makes the worker appear more productive, the truth is, the worker is unfocused and unsure of what to do next. Their mind is using an extraordinary amount of energy as they bounce between several different tasks--and unfortunately, often, it takes far longer to complete those tasks when attempting to complete several at a time. Focusing on a single task at a time, on the other hand, can often speed up the process of getting each task done. 

2. Single-tasking often decreases stress.

Multitasking frequently causes stress levels to rise in employees. They have too many things to think about, and the mind may struggle to process all of those things at the same time, leading to substantially increased stress levels. On the other hand, when engaging in single-tasking, many employees show substantially lower stress levels. As a result, those employees may be less likely to get sick or burn out and more likely to give their best to each task on their lists every day. 

3. Single-tasking improves ability to focus and concentrate.

Focus is much like a muscle: it needs to be exercised in order to grow. While multitasking spreads out concentration and the brain's computing power, single-tasking substantially improves focus. Over time, people who learn to single-task effectively may discover that they are able to focus more effectively--and put more of their substantial skill and talent into each task they take on. 

Learning How to Single-Task

If workers throughout your company are struggling with the process of single-tasking, consider these strategies for improving productivity and focus--and the ability to take on one task at a time. 

1. Turn off distractions.

Take advantage of doors that can be closed to eliminate outside distractions, turn off email notifications, and encourage employees to tuck their cell phones in a bottom drawer unless they're waiting for an important call or text. 

2. Track how time is spent.

One of the hazards of multitasking is that it makes it incredibly difficult to track exactly how much time has been spent on any given task. Single-tasking, on the other hand, makes it easier for employees to see exactly how much time they've spent on each task on their lists for the day. Not only does single-tasking make it easier to track time, tracking time reminds employees that they're supposed to be single-tasking. 

3. Make notes.

Sometimes, thoughts intrude despite your best efforts to stay focused on the task at hand. Work with employees to find an effective method of making notes about things that need to be taken care of later, whether it's firing off an important email or finishing up a blog post. Often, this simple strategy can help clear the mind and make it easier to focus. 

4. Break tasks down into manageable pieces.

One of the most critical parts of single-tasking is breaking down tasks into pieces that can be managed in a single session--or at least creating a concrete stopping place. Some people choose to utilize time management systems that focus on taking a break at a specific point during the day. Others break up their days by tasks: when a given task is over, it's time to move on to something else. By breaking those tasks down, it becomes easier to stay focused on them.

Ben Halverson is the General Manager of Lorman Education Services. Lorman is a continuing education company that provides compliance training to professionals across the world. Want to learn more? Contact Lorman today to discover how we can help with productivity throughout your company.

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