Do you find yourself doing multiple things at the same time? Yes, it might be quicker to switch between doing two things. It may be writing a report while replying to an email at work, but it’s not that effective. In Devora Zack’s book, Singletasking (2015), multitasking doesn’t work well, and it can cost you more time in the long run.
Multitasking often brings our performance down since our memory can be limited while working on multiple tasks (see my review on David Crenshaw's book). The human brain doesn’t function well on doing various things at once; in other words, it’s too much. Yet people will go out of their way to do it for the sake of convenience. Zack’s book looks to move away from these practices, and instead focus on singletasking.
The main point of the single-asking is this idea: One thing at a time and ONLY one thing.
Singletasking: Do One Task At A Time- Prioritization is Key
For some people, it can be challenging to work on one task when many thoughts may come up in their minds. Naturally, many ideas will come up while working on one single task. But it's essential to focus on the job on hand; in other words, learning how to prioritize our tasks. If you know which tasks need more attention than others, prioritizing them will be simple to do.
But if it's something that you struggle with, Zack suggests you focus and finish the current task you’re on. Then after some time, take a brief break to clear your mind; for example. Going for a walk, meditating, drink some water, and so forth. Working on one task following a short break can make a difference in your performance, and make you less stressful as well.
Singletasking: Cluster-Tasking & Flexibility
There are two techniques Zack discusses how to practice singletasking. Here is the following:
1.) Cluster-Tasking Technique
In regards to taking similar activities and tasks into one group combined, and put aside a time block to do those tasks only. The key to making this technique work is to figure out which tasks go together. After that, come up with a game plan and know how you’ll manage to fit it into your schedule. For instance, all of your phone calls and Skype sessions can go together into one group, which can be labeled as communication. Separating this group and putting down a time block to complete those tasks can make it easier to manage your time.
2.) Built-in Flexibility Around Your Schedule
Having flexibility can help you avoid unexpected occurrences, therefore reducing the temptation to multitask. The example Zack uses is how doctors work around their schedules. On average, doctors have two 30 minutes blocks each day to handle emergency calls. It’s common to find yourself waiting to see a doctor for a minor illness, but doctors are always available in the event of a significant medical emergency. It’s part of the medical profession to have flexibility, something that people need to make sacrifices if they want to become doctors. But in any business, this technique helps people manage meetings throughout the day. Instead of having back to back meetings where you may set yourself again, you can create a gap period during the day for those unexpected situations to take place.
Other Key Takeaways
The practice of singletasking helps you give full attention to each other when communicating. When having a conversation with someone else, that person may be checking their phone while you’re talking to them. It can be frustrating because they may not be actively paying attention to what you’re saying. Instead, challenge yourself to look at the person and listen to what they are saying.
Also, singletasking can lead to more fulfillment in life, and happiness when you’re giving more attention to things that matter the most. Harvard did one study (in the book). It found that people were much happier when they are engaged in doing a single task. The author also points the example of how children behave, who usually do not multitask. At a younger age, it brings more curiosity and joy when children are often doing one task at a time. More so, using childhood memories (meaning good ones) as a reminder can bring more happiness and joy as adults live out their lives.
Singletasking is a practical approach to getting more done over multitasking. Based on what Zack writes about, it can help clear your mind while permitting more free time. For example, it can mean more time to self-reflect. Also, the idea of taking breaks can help give your brain a rest from doing single tasks for a specified period. In the era of technology, singletasking can be a great way to avoid distractions and to get more done on a given day.
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If you enjoyed reading this review, check out the book below.