The Key To Productivity: Single Tasking

12 Comments January 29, 2009 / Posted in Personal Development

single-tasking

Image courtesy of paulworthington

Recap

In my previous article, I wrote about multi tasking and how it actually affects our productivity. In this article, I will elaborate on the advantages of single tasking and how it can actually help us get more things done.

Single tasking

Single tasking is a philosophy of doing one thing at a time and this is a philosophy that Leo at Zenhabits practice.  This is also my preferred method of doing things as I believe that one thing at a time will help me to get more things done compared to multi tasking.

Why Single task?

Single tasking is just like taking a complex question(multi tasking) meant for an undergraduate and try to rephrase it into a simple(single tasking) enough question that even a 10 year old kid could understand and if one could choose, I believe everyone will prefer simplicity rather than complexity.

Some benefits of single tasking:

1. Speed – Single tasking does not stretch our focus in all direction which result in us to be able to focus on our current job. With better focus, we tend to do things faster, thus we are able to complete it in a shorter amount of time.

2. A simple system – Single tasking is a simple system and one of the best way to implement it is by using a “to do” list system.

3. Quality of work – Single tasking allows us to devote all our resources into a single task which result in a higher quality of work.

How To Implement The Philosophy Of Single Tasking

1. To do list - Using a to do list is a great way to kick start your habit of single tasking. A to do list works in a way that you will need to do one thing at a time and move on to the next task and this run under the same philosophy of single tasking. This system allow you to monitor your progress because you are checking off the tasks that you had completed in the day.

2. Pen and paper – Pen and paper is one of the ways to create your to do list. At the start of your day, just brain dump the tasks that you will need to complete by today and check them off whenever you complete your task.

I personally keep a to do book and it does help me to get things done and keep track of how productive I am for the day by looking at what type and how many tasks I had completed.

3. Online to do list – There is an online application called Now Do This and it is a very simple application which you can use as your to do list.

Now Do This work in a very simple way. All you need is to click the “edit list” and type out each task in a new sentence. Whenever you complete your task, just click the “done” button and keep on doing it until you had completed your entire task.

You can also keep the page at the side of your browser to constantly remind you on what task you need to do today.

Step by Step

**Note** I’m using Mozilla Firefox on Windows Vista

1. Book mark the page Now Do This.

2. Click your “bookmarks” button followed by “organize bookmarks”. Search for “Now Do This” bookmark and click once on it.

3. Click the “more” button and check the box, “load bookmark in sidebar”

4. Restart your browser and click the Now Do This bookmark and you should see it as a sidebar in your browser.

Example of side bar

nowdothis-optimized

You can also create 2 list or more by adding a @ in front, so that you can toggle between the list such as tasks that you want to do now or later.

Example

nowdothis3-optimized

Parting Words

Here are some more simple lessons for you before I go. Keep your list short, focus your effort on one thing at a time and complete all your tasks that you had listed. If you can stick to this, this will be one of your best system that you can use to enhance your productivity.

Cheers
Vincent
Single Tasker

**P.S** What system did you use to aid you to get things done? Do you use a to do system as well? See you in the comment section. :)

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12 Responses to “The Key To Productivity: Single Tasking”

  1. Emma says:

    Seconded, thirded, or where ever we are by now! :)

    I like to think of focus as a PC processor: it can only accept one request for attention at a time (unless you happen to be an oddball with a dual core brain).

    You could either run an OS like DOS and give priority to one process. Or, you could run an OS like Windows and give a mixed priority to a number of tasks, all of which have to queue up according to priority. Then, every time you switch focus, you have to go to the the new task manager you have to implement and ask which task deserves attention this time. Sure, the latter is flashy, has variation and feels productive, but which is going to take the least work in the long term?

  2. Yeah, I agree. I’ve always used a traditional pen/paper to-do list. I’d be lost without it.

    I really don’t think there has ever been a time where people live through each day so distracted by different ‘things’.

    In fact, I think those who work online (particularly bloggers) are some of the most guilty for trying to do too many things at once.

  3. Nathalie Lussier says:

    I find that I do my best work while single tasking. The only thing I need to remember is to take a break! I don’t mean a “lets browse facebook/twitter” kind of break. I mean a full disconnect, like going for a walk, getting a glass of water, etc.

    Great breakdown of the concept of single tasking. :)

  4. Evelyn Lim says:

    As a mother to two young kids, I find multi-tasking necessary often enough. But I like the idea of single tasking too!! Single tasking allows me to slow down and be fully absorbed in one activity. I give complete attention to each moment. My mind is nowhere else – just here and now! Great article!!

  5. Vincent says:

    @Hi Melanie,

    I believe we are distracted by “different” things such as Facebook, MSN, Youtube and etc. These are the things that can be rather distracting.

    @Hi Emma,

    I love the examples you shared with us using processor as example. Thanks for the input :)

    @Hi Evelyn,

    I believe there will be some mixture of single tasking and multi tasking in our life. Different scenarios call for different approach. If we are traveling, it will be great if we can listen to our MP3 player and commute at the same time but it will not be a good idea to multi task when we are doing something that need a great deal of focus and concentration such as writing a book.

    Cheers
    Vincent
    Personal Development Blogger

  6. Vincent says:

    @Hi Nathalie,

    Getting a break is important to recharge our batteries and it is essential if we want to keep ourselves in tip top condition to do our work. Great point!

    Cheers
    Vincent
    Personal Development Blogger

  7. meysamk says:

    Hello Vincent,
    I think the Internet and Multi Tabbed Browsers like Firefox prevents me to do single task at a time!

  8. Nick says:

    Great article. It’s really too bad that everyone tries to multi-task these days. We tend to pride ourselves on it. Unfortunately, it’s just not that efficient.

  9. [...] on all 10 of the balls which make the task much harder. I had written 2 more extensive articles on single tasking and multi tasking which you can read it for more info. So my question for today is, what do you [...]

  10. Vincent says:

    @Hi Meysamk,

    I got to agree with that. It is a love and hate relationship with the one who invented multi tabbing.

    @Hi Nick,

    Multi tasking tends to backfire on us if we are doing work that need great concentration and if we are able to single task more, we can complete a lot more task than we can imagine.

    Cheers
    Vincent
    Personal Development Blogger

  11. kopal says:

    hi vincet
    ur to do list is great..
    its really useful..
    Your idea of taking break after 1 and 1/2 hr works well to recharge for next task….
    Thanks a lot….
    keep it up Good job

  12. Vincent says:

    Hi Kopal,

    Thanks for your nice words! :)

    Cheers,
    Vincent