Business mindfulness expert Dana Zelicha of the Organisational Well Being Agency discusses how to stop multitasking and start unitasking to reduce stress at work
Multitasking is a common practice with the many distractions people face throughout the day. The belief that multitasking helps us accomplish everything we have to get done, however, is a myth.
Research has shown that multitasking negatively affects performance and decreases productivity by up to 40%. Therefore, while many people think that doing many things at once is efficient, it is actually counterproductive because the tasks are usually performed with less attention and lower quality.
Instead, the best way to accomplish all of one’s tasks is to ‘unitask,’ or do one thing at a time with full effort and attention. Unitasking involves a conscious commitment to the task at hand and being fully immersed and engaged in the experience. Mindfulness helps to hone unitasking skills because it cultivates a present-moment awareness in which one can carefully focus on what they are currently doing instead of worrying about other obligations or tasks. Unitasking thus produces a higher quality performance and increases productivity by enabling a person to execute a task effectively and efficiently and then move on to the next one.
Additionally, a study by Michigan State University found that women multitask 10 hours more per week than men. This is noteworthy, as it has implications for mindfulness interventions being especially useful and necessary for women.
How can I become a unitasker?
To unitask, we have to resist the multiple distractions of our environment and our own addictive habits, get very clear about what we want to do, and commit to doing it.
Unitasking: Tips for work
1 Plan your day – 20 minutes at night can save you time at work
2 Have a permanent unitasking day
3 Divide your work day into unitasking episodes and define each one.
4 Ask yourself “What do I really want (or need) to be doing right now?”