For as long as I can remember, we've not only been encouraged to multi-task, it's been expected of us. The message is constantly communicated that women are multi-taskers and men are not. Who started this rumour and who perpetuated the expectation that we should be constantly multi-tasking in order to succeed? The ability to multi-task is not the issue. Regardless of gender we can all multi-task to some extent. The issue is whether multi-tasking our way through everyday life is good for us?
This world needs more kindness and one place to start is by being kinder to ourselves. As part of operation 'practice more self-kindness', I've decided to remind myself of all the benefits of shunning multi-tasking in favour of single tasking or on some occasions, in favour of doing absolutely nothing at all. For in doing nothing we are actually doing something. We are giving ourselves a chance to rest and replenish our energy.
The phrase single-tasking doesn't exactly roll off the tongue easily. Most likely because we rarely hear mention of it. On the other hand, multi-tasking is everywhere and promises much. It promises success and productivity. It promises a day well spent. It promises a fully ticked-off to-do list. When we are multi-tasking, we instinctively feel that we are getting things done; and we humans love to feel that we are accomplishing things. However, in spite of all of this multi-tasking, our to-do lists never seem to end and collectively, we seem to be feeling more overwhelmed and anxious than ever before.
Perhaps it's time to acknowledge that multi-tasking doesn't deliver all it promises. It seems that while multi-tasking is necessary at times and can deliver, it's not something that we should be doing all the time. Our goal should not be to never multi-task again. Rather, a worthwhile goal may be to switch our default mode from multi-tasking to single-tasking and to give ourselves a break.
Keep scrolling for five reasons to start practicing single-tasking today.
1. One task fully completed is better than several tasks half done.
In many ways multi-tasking is false advertising. It promises much, but in reality it often stifles productivity. It acts as a convenient excuse to set one task aside when it becomes too challenging or boring and move on to another. I am one hundred per cent guilty of not seeing challenging tasks through to completion and of switching between tasks when they become too difficult or too boring. If single tasking becomes our default mode, we are more likely to complete pesky tasks before moving on to others. Set yourself one task and don't leave it until you have completed it or done as much as you can with it.
2. It helps us to fully immerse ourselves in the moment.
In a world full of distractions, we are seldom able to fully immerse ourselves in the task at hand. Our modern, tech driven world conspires against us doing so. Our phones are pinging and inviting us to check our emails or notifications. We are constantly contactable and we are thought that we must always be available to others, whether work colleagues or friends. Switching off from distractions and allowing ourselves time to devote to a single task from start to finish allows us to give it our full attention and with that we are bound to do a better job.
3. We allow ourselves the time and space to rest and replenish
Over the last few years, I've been forced to embrace single tasking. When we are full of energy and everything is going great, we multi-tasking without even thinking about it. When illness strikes or when our energy levels are low for whatever reason, we must change our default setting and allow ourselves the luxury of doing one thing at a time and of sometimes doing nothing at all. This is how I really learned the value of slowing down and saw through the multi-tasking myth. For in doing one thing at a time or in doing nothing at all, we are actually being very kind to ourselves. We are allowing ourselves time and space to rest and replenish without judgement.
4. We are better able to prioritise our to-do lists
We are thought to think that the more we do and the more we accomplish each day is what makes that day a good or a bad day. When we question this, we quickly realise the falacy of this way of thinking. Very few tasks require immediate attention and the completion of very few chores is more important than our happiness and emotional well-being. Instead of racing to complete many small unimportant tasks, choose the one that is most important and allow yourself the time and space to complete it. Everything else can wait.
5. We stop trying to please others
Our rush to get multiple tasks done in a short space of time is often driven by our human need to please others. We assign importance to certain things and we don't want to disappoint others. In reality when it comes to most things, most people don't really care whether we achieve them or not. Single tasking allows us to identify what we really need to do in order to make ourselves and others happy and what can wait.