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Breaking Free from Multitasking: A Path to True Productivity

We all multitask without being aware of it. Every day, countless messages compete for our attention and time. Too often, we give in to these interruptions, which puts us in what I call ‘respond mode.’ In this state of mind, you keep responding to every message you receive. Unless you work in customer service, this harms your productivity. Messages from friends, colleagues, Facebook, Email, News apps, and countless other sources vie for our attention. It seems almost impossible to write an email without being interrupted by a WhatsApp message, a colleague who needs something, or a phone call.

When we are responding to messages throughout the day, we cannot focus on our work. Every time we are distracted, it takes time and energy to switch between tasks. Most people’s days revolve around juggling multiple tasks and projects at once. The feeling that we have so many obligations—and limited time—creates anxiety. Imagine receiving a text from your friend about another friend’s birthday gift while trying to write an important email. What do you do? Most of us leave the email to respond to our friend.

We feel obliged to respond to everything and everyone. When we return to the email, we forget the point we were trying to make. The reason for this is simple: we cannot multitask effectively. To keep our lives in check and reduce stress and anxiety, we must avoid multitasking. If we want to work stress-free, we should take it one step at a time and not engage in multitasking. By using the full capacity of our mind, we can complete tasks quicker and better. First, focus on writing the email, then on responding to your friend’s birthday gift.

Switching Kills Productivity

We all have days when we feel unproductive or that we didn’t accomplish anything. When you feel unproductive, the chances are that interruptions and multitasking have drained your energy. When you juggle multiple things simultaneously, like sending an email, texting a friend, and checking Facebook while in a meeting, you engage in context switching. Research by Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine, showed that it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption. Since we are interrupted more than once, this adds up quickly, and before you know it, you feel like you’ve done nothing that day.

Clifford Nass, a sociologist from Stanford University, has researched the impact of multitasking and found that people who engage in multitasking are “suckers for irrelevancy.” We multitask because we are distracted by notifications, which are addictive. We cannot control ourselves—we must look at the notification to see who or what wants our attention. Every time a notification pops up on our screen, we get a rush that releases dopamine.

Dopamine is one of the body’s happy chemicals—it controls the “pleasure” systems of the brain and makes you feel joy. This joyous feeling is addictive and makes us seek out behaviours that stimulate dopamine. You can think about food, sex, drugs, and the notifications you receive on your screen. While dopamine may cause a rush, it also exhausts us. That is why you still feel tired at the end of the day even though you haven’t been productive. This is a harmful process, and we need to stop this pattern.

Multitasking Fix: Turn Off Notifications

It’s difficult to instantly change your behaviour. Your smartphone is likely the biggest source of distractions. So let’s focus on your phone. If you want to be more productive, start with the following two productivity tips:

1. Turn Off Notifications on Your Smartphone

This will take away distractions. Start by turning off push notifications on your news apps. Then, follow with email notifications. Finally, if you really want to eliminate distractions, turn off all notifications. Only check your phone when you want—don’t be a slave to it.

2. Delete Facebook from Your Smartphone

Facebook equals procrastination. I don’t have Facebook on my phone anymore, and it’s been almost a year. My brother recommended I delete Facebook: “You waste hours on Facebook,” he said. He was right. You need to trust me on this—delete it, and you will instantly find that you have less stuff to do on your phone.

These productivity tips won’t double or triple your productivity, but they will give you more peace of mind so you can focus on what is important: your life.

The Power of Single-tasking

By focusing on one task at a time, you can leverage the full capacity of your mind. This approach not only improves the quality of your work but also enhances your efficiency. Here’s how you can implement single-tasking in your daily routine:

Prioritize Your Tasks

List down your tasks for the day and prioritize them. Focus on the most important tasks first and complete them before moving on to less critical ones.

Set Boundaries

Create a work environment that minimizes distractions. Inform your colleagues and friends about your work hours and request them to avoid unnecessary interruptions during these times.

Take Breaks

Incorporate short breaks into your work routine to avoid burnout. Use this time to relax and recharge, so you can return to your tasks with renewed energy and focus.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness helps you stay present and focused on the task at hand. Techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or simply taking a few moments to center yourself can significantly improve your concentration and productivity.

Use Tools Wisely

Leverage productivity tools that help you stay organized and focused. Tools like task managers, focus apps, and time trackers can help you manage your tasks effectively without getting overwhelmed.

Embrace a Life of Focus and Fulfilment

In a world filled with constant distractions, finding focus can feel like an uphill battle. But by understanding the pitfalls of multitasking and embracing single-tasking, you can reclaim your time and boost your productivity. Turn off those notifications, delete unnecessary apps, and commit to a more mindful and focused approach to work.

Remember, your time is valuable. Don’t waste it juggling multiple tasks and distractions. Focus on what truly matters, and you’ll find yourself achieving more with less stress and anxiety. Here’s to a more productive and fulfilling life, one focused task at a time.

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