Multi-tasking was once thought to be “the answer” for those who wanted to get more done in less time: simply do twice as much by doing two things at once! However, research has painted a different picture: multi-tasking actually causes us to take longer to complete tasks than it would have taken had we focused on one thing at a time (in most cases), and it makes us less efficient in what we do. (That makes a pretty good case for single-tasking, doesn’t it?)
There’s something to be said for multi-tasking, particularly if you have too many things and too little time to do them. If you are able to pair activities that require thought, such as listening to an audiobook or carrying on a conversation, with activities that are largely automatic, like doing dishes or walking on a treadmill, you may be able to check two items off of your to-do list simultaneously without sacrificing much accuracy with either, and that can help with stress management. However, much of the time–far more often than many people realize–multitasking leads to more stress and less productivity. As it turns out, most activities that comprise the typical to-do list require at least some thought, and aren’t easily paired with each other without both of them suffering from the distraction that can come with multi-tasking. Add to that the common occurrence of constant interruptions that can come in a typical day in the life of virtually anyone who uses a smartphone–calls, texts, emails, notifications–and suddenly multitasking can feel like a stress-creator rather than a stress-reliever.
Taking a break from all the distraction can help with productivity, and can help us all get into a frame of mind that helps us get back to single-tasking, and to get closer to maintaining mindfulness in daily life. Once you get into the practice of single-tasking and maintaining mindfulness, it becomes easier and easier to do regularly and automatically, and focusing on this for one day can get you into the practice quickly and easily. As you may have deduced from the headline, “Single-Tasking Day,” which is February 24th in 2015, can provide that day of mental simplicity and focus. It is important to note, however, that any day can be a single-tasking day–any time you put your mind to single-tasking, mindfulness, and maintaining focus on one activity at a time can be your personal single-tasking day, and can help you to build the skills and awareness to make these things a greater part of your everyday life.
This February 24th–or whenever you see this post, really–we (and by we, I mean me and everyone else who is observing this holiday) encourage you to look into single-tasking and see how you can focus more on one thing at a time. Do it just for today, or try it today, see how great it feels, and start doing it more from now on. Spread the word, and maybe we’ll have a society who is less distracted, more effective, and less stressed. It starts with us!
Learn more about single-tasking, multi-tasking, and how you can make some small shifts for great gains in productivity and stress management: