In recent years, studies have shown that, contrary to conventional belief, multitasking isn’t efficient. Our brains can’t truly handle more than one thing at once, and the microseconds spent switching between tasks actually diminish our focus.
So how to resist the temptation to multitask? A few simple habits can make a big difference.
Commit to the task at hand.
When you sit down to work on something, decide how long you will give it and stick to that decision, says Devora Zack, author of Singletasking: Get More Done—One Thing at a Time. Some people find it helpful to set a timer, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. Until it goes off, you focus only on what’s in front of you.
Build barriers against
When you need to concentrate, turn off email and social media alerts. Close your office door if you have one, or put on headphones to keep unwanted interruptions at bay.
Have a place for ideas that pop up.
Keep a notebook or note-taking app handy so you can capture ideas that occur to you while you’re working. Jot them down quickly and get back to your primary task.
Make time for quiet.
By taking a few moments each day to sit quietly, perhaps focusing only on your breathing, you train your mind to concentrate better. When you need to focus tightly on a work project, you’ll be glad you exercised that muscle.