5 Ways to Practice Single-tasking

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels | Single-tasking

The Oscillating Fan Syndrome

Have you ever sat amidst other people in a humid room that is void of air conditioning? It is insufferable unless there is a small tripod fan in the corner that is oscillating back and forth, giving you a brief moment of respite when the warm air hits your perspired brow.

One fan in a humid room can only
do so much among so many people.

Multitaskers are like an oscillating fan, trying desperately to meet people’s needs with the assemblage of their talents, aspirations, and abilities. However, people often forget that they are only one person, who can target one thing at a time. Sure, you can give fragments of yourself to ten separate endeavors, but only for a short amount of time before you have to move to something else that is petitioning for your attention. Multitasking can limit productivity, increase stress, constrain creative flow, and give a false sense of purpose.

Laws of Attraction

There is a certain law of attraction in the perpetual pursuance of success, accolades, and completed tasks. Is there any thrill that compares to crossing things off your to-do list? Am I right, or am I right? Oftentimes we are drawn in by the alluring concept of becoming more, by achieving more, because we are doing more.

Somehow the deception of becoming a multitasking machine has become the normality of individuals across North America, who believe busyness and exhaustion will lead to a bounty of accomplishments and prosperity. We live under the guise that there is never too much to do or too many things to do at once. But, there is too much to do. And if you’re reading this right now, chances are you have a multiplicity of things on your proverbial plate.

Far too many of us live under the pretense that we have to burden our lives with more tasks and projects to become a productivity guru. This concept is a fallacy—you are only one person.

Release the pressure you have placed on yourself to do everything and to be everywhere for everyone.

Are you not dizzy from going back and forth from task to task?

My Life Had To Change

A few years ago I went on a soul-searching vacation to Europe with my best friends. Typical, I know. I left all of my anxiety behind in Chicago and wandered through the streets of Paris, eating croissants and drinking copious amounts of coffee. I existed without stress and worry. After traveling through several countries and eating enough bread and cheese to feed a small city, I began my amazing journey home.

The moment I flew into Chicago airspace, I felt the heartbeat of the city. The heartbeat of busy, overburdened, and exhausted workaholics. The heartbeat of multitaskers trying to make tattered ends meet with the leftovers of their dilapidated energy.

Instantly I became angry with myself, thinking, “How dare you take time off when you have so many things to accomplish!” I reached into my bag and picked up my phone so I could draft a few emails that I could send to people the moment I landed. By the time I drafted half an email, I had my day-planner in my hand, writing things on my to-do list. So, back and forth I went from several things, trying to multitask myself into doing numerous things at once for the sake of not wanting to feel like a slacker, for the sake of wanting to feel productive.

Under the stress I put upon myself, I struggled to find a deep breath as a result of self-inflicted anxiety.

At that moment, I was unaware that I did not have to share the heartbeat of the city, but that I needed to share the heartbeat of God.

You Need A New Mantra

Jesus, in Matthew 11:28-30, invites us to release stress by saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Create a new mantra for your life.
“I will live a life of focus.”
“I will seal my work with excellence.”
“I will practice single-tasking.”

The above mantras, or the ones you write yourself, will vehemently conflict with your chaotic routine.

When you endeavor to focus on one thing at a time, you will quickly discover how difficult it will be to stay committed to the task at hand. When you begin this journey of single-tasking it will be inevitable that you will check your email, open a new tab on your screen, and get up from your desk to go warm up your coffee—all in a matter of one minute—all while trying to concentrate on one thing.

A few things to consider on your journey to single-tasking:

1.) Write down tasks that need completion. Once you have written your daily and weekly goals in a planner, look at your list and decide which one requires the most attention immediately. Perhaps it is something you have been—ahem—procrastinating on. Or maybe its something you’ve been spending time on, but not with great focus. Also, give yourself grace, if you do not finish your task today, make it your first priority tomorrow.

2.) Turn your phone on silent. Even better—put it in another room. Did I just give you anxiety? You’re thinking, “This woman doesn’t know how dependent I am to my phone!” “I’m the busiest person EVER.” I may not know you personally, but I know you! Trust me, you will be able to focus much better when you’re not distracted by every chime, and email notification. My suggestion: Put a timer on for 30 minutes to begin (you’ll hear it go off from another room). As you grow, add fifteen-minute increments of time as you become a single-tasking guru. Also, the world will go on without you checking Facebook or Instagram when you get bored—I promise.

3.) Focus. Stay on the task at hand. The celebrated term practice makes perfect is not always true. For instance, if you practice a classical piano piece with the wrong notes or bad technique, you are only going to engrain those bad practices deeper into your psyche. It will take immense self-control, or a trained professional, to teach you how to play the composition properly. Relearning something the right way will take triple the effort, time, and patience. Don’t get discouraged if your mindset doesn’t change the first time you give yourself a positive affirmation—it will take time. Remember the energy you invest into practicing positive behaviors isn’t wasted because it will strengthen every facet of your life. It will also rewire the way your brain reacts to the busyness of life.

4.) Take a break. How you decide to take a break will determine how well you will be able to focus on your next task. My suggestion: do not take a break by going on Instagram—social media is a sinkhole—it will distract you in multiple ways. If you need sustenance, grab a piece of fruit or some veggies and go outside to eat. Being outside in the sun will replenish your creative reserves, you’ll receive a much-needed boost of Vitamin D, and having a change of atmosphere will give you a jolt of energy.

5.) Be in the moment. If you are out to dinner with your spouse or a friend, leave your phone in your purse or pocket. Engage in conversations that are uplifting and meaningful. Talk about the highlights and lowlights of your day, and express your goals with one another. If you are writing an article, clear your workspace, the tabs on your computer, and silence the noise around you. The people you spend time with and the things you spend time on deserve your undivided attention.

Remember that you are more than the sum of tasks and deadlines; you are a created being who needs rest and restoration.

It is okay to take a break, breathe, and refocus.

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