Mindfulness Expert Dana Zelicha from the Organizational Well Being Agency says multitasking is a work fail waiting to happen. Instead, she says smart, successful women are embracing unitasking
Multitasking is a common practice with the many distractions people face throughout the day. The belief that multitasking helps us accomplish everything we have to get done, however, is a myth.
multitasking negatively affects performance and decreases productivity by up to 40 percent.
Research has shown that multitasking negatively affects performance and decreases productivity by up to 40 percent. Therefore, while many people think that doing many things at once is efficient, it is actually counterproductive because the tasks are usually performed with less attention and lower quality.
Instead, the best way to accomplish all of one’s tasks is to ‘unitask,’ or do one thing at a time with full effort and attention. Unitasking involves a conscious commitment to the task at hand and being fully immersed and engaged in the experience. Mindfulness helps to hone unitasking skills because it cultivates a present-moment awareness in which one can carefully focus on what they are currently doing instead of worrying about other obligations or tasks. Unitasking thus produces a higher quality performance and increases productivity by enabling a person to execute a task effectively and efficiently and then move onto the next one. Additionally, a study by Michigan State University found that women multitask 10 hours more per week than men.
What are the benefits of unitasking?
It increases your productivity and wellbeing by enabling your complete attention to be focused on completing a task. This means that you finish it quicker and that the standard to which you complete it is higher. It helps you manage stress by blocking out distractions that can cause mental overload.
How can we unitask?
To unitask, we have to resist the multiple distractions of our environment and our own addictive habits, get very clear about what we want to do and commit to doing it.
This can be achieved by using the four tips below, and daily mindful meditation will also train your brain, clear your mind and help you focus.
Plan your day—20 minutes at night can save you time at work
How many times have you gone to bed exhausted after a long day, only to find your mind running through every possible scenario of the upcoming day as soon as your head hits the pillow? To calm your mind, get a restful sleep and avoid feeling overwhelmed the next day, dedicate about 20 minutes BEFORE you go to sleep to write down a plan for the following day. Go through what meetings you have, how much free time you expect to have and what you can realistically achieve in the designated time slots. Prioritise your tasks, and assess if you need to call on any colleagues to help. This will enable you to pre-empt issues that could arise and will leave you feeling prepared for the day, improving your sleep also.
2. Divide your work day into unitasking episodes and define each one.
With the daily plan you make for yourself at night, dedicate a specific time for you to do each task. For example, assign 4 to 5 p.m. for preparing that presentation you haven’t had time to work on, and ONLY focus on completing that task with all of your attention and effort. Then, you will be able to complete the task efficiently and be satisfied with the end result, and then tackle the next unitasking episode!
3. Have a permanent unitasking day
With all the responsibilities you have both at work and at home, it may be challenging to plan out your day to a ‘T’ and neatly accomplish all of your tasks every day of the week. Okay, it may even feel impossible. Unexpected problems may pop up throughout the week, but carving out one permanent “Unitasking Day” can help you to feel more in control. Choose one day where you will make it your goal to only focus on one task at a time and to really be attentive to what you are doing. This is a great way to practice unitasking and help it to become a habit in other days of the week as well, as you will find it adds more order to your day and increases the quality of your work.
Sometimes, there is a contradiction between what we want to do and what we need to be doing, a
4. Ask yourself: ‘What do I really want (or need) to be doing right now?’
It is easy to feel lost and overwhelmed amid all of your responsibilities, but take time out to assess what you actually need to get done. This will break the mental chatter of all the other different tasks you need to do, help you find clarity and focus on the most important and urgent task you need to be doing at that moment. Sometimes, there is a contradiction between what we want to do and what we need to be doing, and taking a moment to distinguish between the two can help us to mindfully complete what we need to do so that we can then go on to enjoy what we want to do.
Dana Zelicha is the founder of the Organizational Well Being Agency. She leads the team at OWBA as Organizational Psychologist Consultant and Executive Coach, engaging in peak performance of business leaders around the world and personally teaching the workshops she offers.
Dana and the OWBA have worked with global organisations such as Teva Pharmaceuticals, Medtronic, Zara, Amdocs and Bank Leumi as well as academic bodies such as the London School of Economics and University of the Arts London.