One of the most important things I learned about improving my productivity was the power of single-tasking. In the book The ONE Thing researchers estimate 28% of the average workday is lost to task switching.
The statistic is far more alarming if we extrapolate the consequences. Let's take 28% of each workday multiplied against forty-six weeks a year, assuming a generous six weeks of vacation. Forty-six weeks times a 28% loss equates to thirteen weeks a year lost to task switching. That’s an entire calendar quarter! So, of course, the average person feels overworked and unproductive. They’re playing with only three-quarters in their year instead of four.
What could you do with an extra quarter?If you master the habit of single-tasking and become better at minimizing distractions, you can reclaim those thirteen weeks. Over a ten-year period, that’s another two and a half years of your life. Over a career of forty years, you’ll add a whole extra decade.
What could you do with an extra decade?What you use those extra weeks and years for is up to you. Perhaps you use them to increase your output and accomplish more than the average person. Maybe you want to use single-tasking to get your work done in a shorter amount of time and use the reclaimed time to do other things you enjoy. Most people are running around feeling like they don’t have enough time to get everything done, and it’s because they’re playing with only three quarters of the year. How advantageous would it be if you could suddenly play the game of life with all four quarters? That’s the power of single-tasking.
So, how do you develop the habit of single-tasking? Start with a simple timesheet. Simply note every activity you perform throughout the day with a start time, an end time, and your total minutes. The secret here is to record literally everything. Thirteen minutes spent working on a presentation. Five minutes spent grabbing a coffee. Eleven minutes spent in your inbox. Seventeen minutes spent “researching” that irresistible idea that just popped in your head. Six minutes spent answering that phone call. As you record each and every task you engage in, you’ll become more and more aware of just how often you switch tasks, as well as how often you’re switching to something rather meaningless. Over time you’ll think twice about having to record that you randomly surfed Facebook for twenty-four minutes, for example.
Once you’ve developed an awareness of where your time goes, how often you switch from one task to the next, and your typical distractions, it’s time to start expanding your ability to work without interruption and distraction-free! Begin by optimizing your environment. Leave your phone in another room when trying to complete a block of focused work. Shut off all notifications, close down any tabs or documents not needed for the work at hand, and try working in full-screen mode. At first, you may only achieve fifteen minutes of uninterrupted work, as will be evidenced by your timesheet. But over time, you will grow those focused blocks of time to thirty minutes, fifty minutes, and so on. Soon, the length of your timesheets will shorten as you focus on the task at hand for longer and longer, resulting in fewer entries per day. And as your timesheets shorten, the weeks you will reclaim will grow.
And if you'd like to master the habit of single-tasking, while learning a couple of other super practical tools to help to reach your full potential in business and life, please check out my free training and resources click here, all in celebration of my new book The 3 Alarms: A simple system to transform your health, wealth, and relationships forever.