It all begins with knowing that multitasking is not a thing. In reality, we switch from task to task because our brain can only do one thing at a time that requires thinking. This is because, when it comes to thinking, our brain simply can’t do two things at once, it is impossible. Granted we can walk and talk, we can drive and eat, there are loads of examples that show us doing more than just one task, but if they are not hard-wired in our brain, meaning that they are something we can do without thought, and if they require thinking, then we can only do one of them at a time. We are giving one task a little bit of thought and the other requires none so it appears we are doing two things at once. They will also be activities that require control from different areas of the brain so it becomes manageable for our brain.
Proof of this is when you are driving and talking on the phone, it is generally something we shouldn’t do, but can manage. If you were to be driving and the conversation was to talk a brain surgeon through major surgery, you would have to stop driving and give the conversation attention. Do you ever turn the car radio down and stop talking or singing when you are reversing your car into a tight car park or following directions?
Another outcome of multitasking is that our effectiveness is divided, this is because each time we switch from task to task we lose a small amount of time and also have to pick back up from where we were in that particular task. We have lost our train of thought in the task as a result, and the switching causes us to be less efficient and ultimately undermines results. In essence, task switching has its costs.
So how do we take control of what we are doing and become more effective?
By choosing one task at a time and working with it until completion or to the point we are wanting to at the time is the place to start, without becoming distracted by emails, your phone, a quick google search, a chat with a colleague, all of the things you normally do, is a great start.
For me, while writing this blog this morning, I’ve had to consciously pull my thinking into line as I am a chronic multitasker who has to unlearn and replace a habit of multitasking which I incorrectly believed made me better, faster and more productive.
My brain has already wondered to, what time shall I go to the gym or walk with my girlfriend or both, hmmm after my weekend of socialising, probably both, what do I feel like for breakfast and I hope to hear back from Collin about the meeting this morning, I wonder if the dogs ear is getting better. Then my partner walked into the office and I was about to have a chat about something I needed to remind him to do and how I best saw that done. Have you confirmed our flights for this week, I’d better organise the dog sitter. My podcast jumped it, I must load that today, and find some other cool people to interview and so much more,
if you look above, there are about three hundred and fifty words and I have had a rather large handful of thought distractions that distracted me from effective and efficient writing, which I had to monitor, stop myself and try to keep my thinking on the task of writing.
After reading the research, I have decided to make a change to the way I do things and focus on one project or task at a time. For me, this starts today and I will no longer have multiple tasks happening at once, I will eliminate distractions by managing my thinking.
This concept goes deeper than this and includes the idea that when you focus your career in one area you become better at that as well. When you ‘niche’ down within your career you become an expert, you outshine your competitors and you become a ‘go-to’ person. This range is in every area, from a plumber or shoe shop to an accountant or a doctor. When you pick an area and specialise in it, give it complete focus, you become more valuable.
Being a lifelong learner and having had what I thought was a varied career, I found it difficult for me to see my one thing, that thing I do. I love to learn about many things and constantly do, but if there is a solid theme amongst my career options, it would be improving the way people perform. Improving their health as I was a nutritionist, improving their body as I was a fitness trainer, PT and Pilates Teacher Trainer, improving their business, sales skills and leadership as my Coach training is through the Neuroleadership group, improving the way they communicate as I am an advanced DISC practitioner and personality profiler, I’ve studied the love languages, strength finder, Meyers Briggs, sales, presenting and more.
Having coached hundreds of people for well over twenty years I see a theme, I did choose my niche, it’s self-improvement and improving performance. Be that at work, with your health or in a relationship, I help people improve themselves and the way they perform. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all desire. To be the best version of ourselves. To feel like we made a difference, that we contributed, be that to our family, our community, our country or in a global sense?
I’d love you to give this a go, try to do one thing at a time, learn to focus and notice the productivity increase. Learn, by practice, how to stop the barrage of fleeting thoughts that distract you from progress and notice how much you improve.