New year, new unitasker.

unitasker

Photo by ollyy (Shutterstock)

I never bother with New Year’s resolutions. However, I am a fan of self-improvement — especially through the act of incorporating subtle but effective changes such as with the practice of kaizen. I’m always searching for small ways to improve, and one simple way I am doing this is by letting go of my urge to multitask, and retraining my brain to become a laser-focused unitasker… or at least a little less scattered.

It’s no secret that master multitaskers are looked on in admiration by many. But much like with that badge of honor bestowed on overloaded professionals in today’s culture of busy, the correlation between our level of multitasking and our level of productivity may not be what you think.

Multitasking can make us feel like we’re being oh so efficient and getting so much done, but the truth of the matter is we’re deluding ourselves. In fact, several studies done in the last decade show that people who multitask are as much as 40% less productive, more easily distracted, and make more mistakes. Chronic multitaskers may even be permanently impairing their brain’s executive mental function.

But how do we quit multitasking when it makes us feel so fulfilled, so capable? Luckily, I’m not alone in my desire to regain control of my thoughts and attention. Founder and chief executive officer of THRUUE Daniel Patrick Forrester recently posited that when you stop multitasking, you “reimagine your relationship with thinking [and] allow room for your ideas to surface.” Indeed, I have found that just one small change has already helped me to become more mindful and less stressed, all while giving my creativity and productivity a slight but noticeable boost.

Research  shows that stress is significantly lowered by checking email only a few times each day. Plus, when constantly bombarded with messages from emails and phone calls to instant messages and notifications, people quickly lose focus as they begin switching their brain functions from one task to another.

To get started on my path towards a more zen workday, I made one simple change — the way I monitor my email. Instead of keeping a running tab on all those new messages, I set aside a block of time every couple of hours and spend that time doing only one thing — checking my emails.

It’s simple, but it’s true. Do less, and you’ll accomplish more. Next on my uni-task list? Take Forrester’s advice to remove “multitasking” from the skills section of my résumé, and replace it with “single-tasking thinker and leader.”

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