Yeah..uh, huh. Yup. Ok. Sure. Ok. [Pause….typing in the background] Wait… can you repeat what you just said?
Sound like any work call you’ve recently attended? By now, you might have heard that sitting is considered the new smoking. Well, if that’s true, then multi-tasking is the new sitting. It’s not good for you.
How do you feel when you need help solving a problem and your teammate is scrolling their inbox pretending to pay attention?
Hang with me because you’re about to learn why single-tasking is the greatest productivity hack in the World.
Just Because We All Do It
Just because everyone’s doing it doesn’t make it OK says the parental voice in the back of your head. Multi-tasking is so pervasive we don’t even realize what it’s costing us.
“You are always saying no to something. Any time you say yes to one thing, you are simultaneously saying no to something else.”– Rory Vaden
However, in multi-tasking, we’re saying no to both things.
Accordingly to brain research, multi-tasking has the same cognitive impact as alcohol. It may help your beer pong game, but not processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously.
Since not many of us get to play beer pong at work, let me reframe…
Can you perform at 50% and still be considered a top performer? I can’t.
However, that’s what we’re doing when we split our attention between multiple tasks.
We think we’re getting more done, but we aren’t. Yes, it all needs to be done, but not all at once.
Why We Multi-task
Multi-tasking has become mainstream largely because we’re using an outdated definition of productivity.
Multi-tasking makes us “feel” productive while avoiding the deep work that’s needed to truly make a difference.
In the knowledge economy, productivity is no longer about how many chocolates you can wrap. No one was ever promoted for being the fastest to respond to email. It’s about how effectively you can solve problems. Especially ones that haven’t happened yet.
When we multi-task, we can’t get to the necessary depth to solve for root cause, ask a catalytic question, or offer a breakthrough insight. Worse we often make mistakes at the task at hand.
What if you weren’t the person making mistakes but the person catching them?
3 Reasons to Single-task:
- Single-tasking gives you control. It might sound backward, but when you acknowledge that can’t do it all (at once) you have to choose the better option at that moment. You’re now in control. You get to run your day instead of it running you.
- Single-tasking makes an impression. The greatest gift you can give someone is your presence. Do you think your team would be more productive working for a leader that is fully engaged in the conversation or someone partially paying attention? (And trust me they can tell.)
- Single-tasking helps you stand out. You zig, they zag. Because everyone else is multitasking, checking email, chats, texts, they’re distracted. Not you, you’re dialed in. In the meeting or on the call you catch what others overlook. You ask the question that provokes the discussion. You offer creative ideas to the problem. You stand out.
The greatest productivity hack in the World is to single-task. Activity and achievement aren’t the same things. I’ll take the latter.
What’s your worst multi-tasking habit? Can you quit it? Mine is responding to email while on a conference call. Sometimes I’m the guy scrolling the inbox, but I’m trying not to be. How about you? Hit reply or comment on the post. I’d love to hear your story.