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How to singletask

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MacBook Pro 2016

Image: Bram Naus / Unsplash.com

In the 21st century, we pride ourselves on being multitaskers. Most of us spend our days switching from email to texting to actual work for hours on end. As the digital age has taken over, we have been forced to do multiple jobs at once. In fact, most job descriptions say that the applicant should be able to multitask.

However, that may not be what’s best. Experts say that it’s better to singletask than to multitask. The idea is pretty self-explanatory. Singletasking, also called monotasking or unitasking, means focusing on one task at a time rather than switching between many different tasks. Even I had trouble singletasking while writing this article. I found myself picking up my phone every few minutes to check my new Instagram post or to answer an email.

In order to help you be more productive, we’ve compiled a list of a few tips on how to singletask. Get to work!

Turn off your technology

This one may seem kind of obvious, but take a break from your phone or your computer. If you need to use a laptop to get work done, maybe consider turning off your phone or putting it in a different room. Technology is great to keep us connected, but sometimes we’re too connected. If you need your technology during working hours, consider turning it off when you’re home for the night. Focus on the world around you when you aren’t working, and that singletasking may bleed into your working life.

Have a real conversation

You don’t have to do anything crazy to truly singletask. Even something as simple as focusing on one conversation can be helpful. If you’re feeling uninspired or you’re having trouble finishing a task, take a break and go talk to someone. Go out to lunch or coffee, and put your phone aside. Singletask with real people so you ignore your phone completely. Once you go back to work, you’ll find it much easier to focus.

Create a routine

A great way to promote singletasking is to give yourself a routine. By disciplining yourself and doing the same things regularly, you will be less inclined to multitask. At work, make it routine to put your phone away or finish one task before you work on another one. At home, make it a habit to talk to someone or sit down and have dinner with your family rather than grabbing something quick before bed. Eventually, it’ll be habit to singletask rather than multitask!

Set boundaries

If you can’t create a regular routine, find a way to set boundaries for yourself. Start small. Maybe you leave your phone in your bag whenever you have a meal with someone else so you’re forced to really engage with them. Maybe you don’t check your phone in the morning until you’ve eaten breakfast or gotten ready. Or, maybe you put your phone on the other side of the room and get an analog alarm clock. These boundaries are meant to promote singletasking, but you can make them into whatever you want.

The Pomodoro Technique

A great method for singletasking is called The Pomodoro Technique. The theory goes that if you break up your task into 25 minute chunks, you’ll be more productive and get more done. After working hard for 25 minutes, you take a short break and then get back to work. It’s a great way to track how long you spend working on certain tasks. It also forces you to singletask because you only need to focus on a task for 25 minutes before you can take a break.  

Singletask in all areas of life

Above all, do not limit singletasking to your work life. Singletasking can be helpful in all aspects of your life, even with things you might not expect. Focus on reading a book with your kid or watching a movie, and you’ll find yourself happier. Stop multitasking and really focus on the things you’re doing in your life. You may find that you’re more productive doing one thing than trying to do ten things at once.

Jenna is a contributor for 301 Digital Media in Nashville, TN. When she isn't reading or taking photos, she makes YouTube videos about her life. Follow her online @jennaclarek