The Art of Focus, or Multitasking and How to Avoid It

focus multitasking

Struggling to get focused?

If you ever struggle to get ‘on task’ – really just sit down and get on with a piece of work or a job that needs doing – you’re not alone.  For anyone who works from home, or runs their own business, there can be a myriad of Life’s Little Distractions trying to tempt you away from your productivity.

You know the feeling, when you have a million things to do – you’re sitting working, but there’s a backlog of laundry to catch up on, and emails about the next parent council meeting are coming in, and you need to keep on top of your blog comments, monitor your web stats, and post some stuff on your business’s Facebook page….

Woah there, partner!

We’ve been programmed to think that multi-tasking is a good thing.  That being able to do a million things at once puts you at an advantage and in some way makes you superhuman.  I’m not saying that the ability to multi-task isn’t useful, in certain contexts.  For example, calling family members  while I load the dishwasher seems to work for me: talking on the phone alleviates the boredom of the dishwasher chore.  But the problem with multitasking is that it shatters your focus.  It makes it impossible to properly concentrate on any one task.  And that is hugely counter-productive.

The answer?  Think differently!  You don’t have to multi-task to be effective.  In fact, choosing to focus on one thing at a time is generally a far more effective way to get things done.

If you can focus on one thing at a time, and give each thing your full attention, here are some things you might benefit from:

  • You’ll finish tasks faster.
  • You’ll feel a benefit to your work/life balance – give your child or your partner your full attention instead of just part of it and you’ll all feel more fulfilled.
  • If you set boundaries, like time limits for work tasks, or a ‘space’ in your home that is for work, you’ll find it easier to switch off from work when you want to spend time relaxing, and easier to concentrate on work when it’s time to get down and get things done.
  • If you remove distractions like constant email alerts and the social media feed, you’ll have fewer thoughts flying around your head all at the same time.  This leaves more room for good thinking about the task that is at hand, and that will give you better results.
  • Focus is a skill that you can learn, and you’ll find that the more you practise, the better you’ll get.  Emptying your brain of unnecessary clutter on a regular basis will help you feel less stressed and more calm.

What are your experiences?  Let us know!

Edited to prove my point about how difficult avoiding this multi-tasking can be and how important boundaries are… whilst I was trying to post this blog, my family were nagging me to make lemon sorbet.  I quietly asked them to let me finish my work in peace so I could do it properly, and once I was done I would give them my full attention…  guess what we are having for dessert tonight? 🙂

©Liz Wootton 2013. All Rights Reserved.


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