how to get things done

10 Ways to Stop Multitasking & Be More Effective

Multitasking is the bane of productivity. Countless tasks are started, but none of them finished because you are rotating between the many options and not devoting your best efforts to any one action. You might have given a good thought to a job, but good thoughts do not provide the same satisfaction as completion. It’s time to focus. Here are ten ideas to stop multitasking.

  1. Write down your tasks: You might want to do every item as it arrives on your agenda, but that is not an efficient way to handle your duties. When new ideas pop up, briefly jot down a note or put it on your calendar for future reference. Go back to your original task. Writing it down allows your brain to set it aside and refocus.
  2. Limit the distractions: Tell your coworkers when you are busy so they will leave you alone. Post set hours for your availability, letting them speak with you about issues or challenges during those times. Keep yourself attached to the seat until the job is done. Reward yourself with that personal phone call or cup of coffee instead of breaking off for every individual desire.
  3. Use a mantra: Remind yourself of a simple phrase while you are doing a task. ‘I will get this done’ or a phrase of your choosing should be used repeatedly. Push yourself into finishing the job by emphasizing the importance of its completion. After all, once it’s done, it’s done. Remind yourself that a partially completed job will come back to you later.
  4. Avoid internal distractions: When a job is boring but necessary, our minds will do everything possible to distract from it. They will push you to become more interested with email or videos. When you feel yourself turning toward something easier, repeat your personal mantra to get back on track. Pride comes upon completion.
  5. Group similar tasks: It is easier to write fifteen checks at once than it is to write one check fifteen times. Group your bill paying into a single block of time. Check your email at certain times, resisting the temptation to switch windows as soon as you receive a new one. While there are always important items on the agenda, every email can wait for a few minutes before you respond.
  6. Start your day with writing a to-do list: To-do lists are often underappreciated. Write the three most important tasks of your day and strive toward those. Block out the time for these tasks, then pencil in the rest of your duties. This tactic is used for both stress relief and satisfaction.
  7. Snap your fingers: When you feel yourself straying, snap your fingers. You might be drawn to the email. You might want to start on that report which is due in a few days. It can wait until you’re done. Snapping your fingers is a physical activity which makes noise. A bell or a tap on your desk will work just as well.
  8. Keep your desk clear: Out of sight, out of mind. Remove items for your next task from your desk. This will keep you completely aware of the task at hand, rather than allowing your mind to drift to more of your taily chores. Put the new client’s folder into a drawer until you can devote your full attention to it.
  9. Make the decision: Make the conscious decision to do a task. Say to yourself, “I am doing X now.” Repeat the statement each time that you feel yourself straying from the original goal and intention. This trains your brain to cut the extraneous and get to work.
  10. Return to your to-do list: You might be mentally unprepared to do a job during its scheduled time. Return to your to-do list and pick the next item on the agenda. Complete it, and return to the original task. Do not allow that primary task to be delayed more than once.

Multitasking harms efficiency and productivity. It increases stress and aggravation. Remove the multitasking mindset so you can treasure each moment.

James Adams is a writer and marketer who work for a store offering office supplies and office stationery to companies in the UK. He writes about business workflow efficiency and promotional strategies.

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17 Responses to 10 Ways to Stop Multitasking & Be More Effective

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  3. The Vizier says:

    Thanks for this article James.

    It’s true that when we multi-task, we don’t do a good job as when we focus on one thing at a time.

    From the points you have given, I have found that grouping together common tasks, keeping my desk clear and having a to-do list helps me to stay focus on what I have to do.

  4. M. A. Tohami says:

    “To do two things at once is to do neither.” —Publilius

    Thanks for sharing James.

  5. For me, the key to getting things follows your make a list line of thinking. I have a list that sits on my desk and each morning, I look at it to see what I can get done quickly and what I need to focus more effort on. As I complete a task, a draw a line through the item. Once I have more lines drawn through tasks than tasks with no lines, I copy the list onto a new piece of paper and continue the process. Nothing more satisfying than each time I move the shortened list to a clean piece of paper. And I find that without a list, many to-dos don’t get done…

  6. Daree says:

    Great minds think alike! I just published my blog on this same topic, although from a slightly different perspective. But our conclusions are the same. Unitasking gives you better results and clears your mind.

  7. Barbara says:

    Wise and countercultural. Having difficulty getting our teens to do one task at a time and finish before moving onto the next task.

  8. LED Lighting says:

    Many people would say that multitasking makes them more effective, not less.

  9. I think it’s important to keep any to-do-list very short. If you add many items then you risk feeling bad when they don’t get done and forgetting about the successes you do achieve.

  10. A to-do list is the most important and effective way for keeping myself in line. Sometimes I may stray and start multi-tasking, but I always manage to come back to the to-do list! Great article, thank you James!


  11. tzongyih says:

    i have an idea, writing not-to-do list might help as well.
    Thanks for your sharing, nice one.

  12. Don’t believe that by doing lots of activities at once you get more done.Your productivity goes down by as much as 40%. Multi-tasking is actually task-switching, rapidly shifting from one thing to another, interrupting ourselves unproductively and forcing the brain to restart and refocus, many times. In the interim between each exchange, the brain makes no progress whatsoever. Therefore, multitasking people not only perform each task less suitably, but lose time in the process

    So, heavy multitaskers are less competent at doing several things at once than light multitaskers. Multitasking isn’t just inefficient, it’s also stressful. Also, the brain cannot fully focus when multitasking, people take longer to complete tasks and are predisposed to error. The only time multi-tasking may be justified is for the lower level, menial work which does not require both selecting and producing action. For example, if you are ironing your clothes, you can fit in other tasks, such as listening to podcasts.

    Follow the lead of AJ Jacobs, in his book My Experimental Life and does just one thing at a time.

    I’ve got to do something about my desk. This is where most of my crimes against focus occur. There are so many temptations. So many needs to fulfil. Snacks, cups of water, caffeine, curiosity about what Julie’s doing. I pop up from my desk once every five minutes.
    I decide to engage in some light bondage. I once read about how Odysseus demanded his sailors tie him to the mast so he wouldn’t take a swan dive off the starboard side when he heard the alluring singing of the Sirens. So, in an homage, I’ve tied myself to the chair in front of my computer with a long extension cord. It feels safe, like a seat belt.

    Another great benefit of single-tasking is that you’re more likely to achieve a state of flow.

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  14. Craig Thomas says:

    Nice common productive tips. However many times I’ve read them before, it’s always refreshing to read them again – to make sure I do them! :)

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  16. Henry Jakson says:

    I have been keeping track of how I`m doing this week (not so
    great) and will post a summary today! It`s been hard but I am already noticing
    a big difference in my focus at work when I force myself to focus on one thing
    at a time.

    Marketing Services

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