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One Thing at a Time: Why Simplifying is Good for Your Productivity and Peace of Mind - by Tad Lusk, LPC

One Thing at a Time: Why Simplifying is Good for Your Productivity and Peace of Mind - by Tad Lusk, LPC

“If people would reflect that one can only do one thing at a time and therefore there is never more than one thing to do at a time, there would be less fatigue in the world.” 

Emmet Fox

You’re probably familiar with the concept of  “multitasking”- doing several things at once to try to get more done and squeeze as much productivity as possible into a shorter amount of time. But I’m here to burst a major bubble for some people: multitasking is totally counterproductive, and I’ll explain why in a moment.

Consider the concept of “quality vs. quantity.” One major challenge is that work or school often seems to demand both quality and quantity, and the pressure of meeting those demands is a major stressor. Browse virtually any job description and you’ll likely see “multitasking” listed in the requirements or desired skills.

Unfortunately, our brains are not built to multitask. The human brain is wired to focus on one task at a time, and then switch to something else. As author Michael Harris rightly explains:

“When we think we’re multitasking, we’re actually multi-switching…We think we’re being productive. We are indeed being busy. But in reality we’re simply giving ourselves extra work.”

Being busy does not necessarily equate to being more productive or efficient. In fact, multitasking (or “multi-switching”) can actually be less efficient, because it requires more effort and mental stamina to keep switching from one thing to the next and maintain focus and accuracy, leading to higher stress & fatigue, and a higher rate of mistakes that you have to fix later.

So the quality of your work starts to tank if you try to do too much at once.

Multitasking can also lead to distraction. Distracted driving, such as texting while driving, is a major cause of car accidents. Many believe it’s every bit as dangerous as driving drunk. If we were truly good at multitasking, that wouldn’t be an issue. But driving and texting are two separate activities that each requires individual concentration.

I recognize that for busy high-achievers, ditching multitasking might be a big shift. You might have some mental resistance to it. But the extra stress, frustration, mistakes, and inefficiency that multitasking creates far outweigh any illusions of getting more done. So when it comes to multitasking, in the words of Dr. Robert Hartley—Bob Newhart’s hilarious psychologist character–“Just stop it!”

Doing one thing at a time allows for greater accuracy, quality, insights and creativity, and you’ll enjoy feeling much more calm in whatever you’re doing too.

Think About It:

  • When did you learn that you “should” or “have to” multitask?
  • What tasks or activities might you actually do a better job at by focusing on one thing at a time?
  • What might happen to your stress level if you allow yourself to just do one thing at a time?

Try it:

  • See if you can catch yourself next time you’re multitasking, and “just stop it!” Instead, do what demands your immediate attention first, do it fully and do it right, with care, then go to the next thing.
  • Choose an ordinary everyday task and approach it as if you were trying it for the first time and it demanded your complete focus. So, when you’re walking, just walk and pay attention to every aspect of it. When you’re driving, just drive. When you’re cooking… you get the idea.

If you liked this blog, you’ll love my new eBook: The Stress Solution for High Achievers, Perfectionists and Busy People: Surprisingly Simple Steps to Calm Your Mind. It’s full of powerful, transformative tips you can use every day, right away. Check it out HERE!