Resisting The Temptations of Multitasking

Even after you’ve made the transition from multitasking to single-tasking, you’ll probably find yourself having to fight the urge to multitask from time-to-time. My experience has been that the motivations to drop back into multitasking come mainly from two places. Actually, rather than motivations, temptations might be a better word to describe the pulls back to multitasking that I experience.

This is Part 3 of a three part series discussing why single-tasking is easier and better than multitasking, what it feels like to switch to single-tasking from multitasking, and how to resist the temptations of multitasking to stick with single-tasking once you’ve made the switch.

The first temptation may surface when your mind is telling you that it needs a break, so you may experience the temptation to jump from whatever task you’re working on at the moment to check your email or social networks. When I give into this temptation, I find myself quickly drawn into a ping-pong match of the mind, where that initial switch to “just check email quickly” or “take a quick peek” at Twitter, triggers a back-and-forth cycle between trying to bring my focus back to the task at hand and checking these online distractions for a quick hit of immediate gratification. By the time I get control of the cycle, tension has almost always built-up in my mind and body to an uncomfortable and unhealthy level.

A couple of things you can try to combat the tendency to get sucked-into this cycle is to make sure to at least get up from your desk, stretch your legs and take a few deep breaths every 30 minutes. It’s really easy to forget to do this very simple thing as the day goes on, so it’s a good idea to put a reminder system in place to help you remember to get up and breathe.

There are a wide variety of reminder app options out there to help out with this. I like to set the internal clock on my Macbook to read out the time to me every half an hour. When I hear the time, I know it’s time to get up, stretch my legs, look out the window and take few deep breaths.

If you have an interest in either Mindfulness and/or Buddhism, you can try the Stillness Buddy app, which I’ve been experimenting with recently and am beginning to like more than the Macbook internal clock method.  Another app similar to Stillness Buddy is Time Out, which I may try as well.

Another option to prevent the jump to check email or social networks is to use website blocking software like Stayfocusd for Google Chrome or RescueTime, which can very helpful as well. If you find yourself jumping to a site that’s blocked by the blocking software, use that as trigger to get up and breathe.

The second temptation may be experienced as the urge to move from what you’re doing to something new and different.

At least for me, starting something new and fresh can be very appealing, especially if I’ve been working on something for a while and even more so when that thing I’m working on gets hard. When an existing task gets hard, the temptation might be there to jump to something else, while what is really required at that very moment is a renewed push to get through the hard part of the work at hand, as this is many times where the real value is created.

Of course, one of my missions is to figure out ways to make these hard times just a little bit easier, while still creating the same, if not more, value out of them. In addition to just simply bringing awareness to experiencing the urge to switch tasks, taking a break, whether it’s a short or longer one as your schedule may allow, will give the urge to move to something new the space to pass, while making it easier for you to sit back down to the task at hand with a renewed energy to push it down the road toward completion.