Focus on one thing at a time

I believe that splitting your concentration and even – gasp – multitasking means you end up with lots of things not finished. Probably not as good as they could be, either, but chiefly unfinished. Writer James Clear argues that there’s more to this one-thing-only approach, though, and he starts with trying to prove its value:

If you want to master multiple habits and stick to them for good, then you need to figure out how to be consistent. How can you do that?

Well, here is one of the most robust findings from psychology research on how to actually follow through on your goals:

Research has shown that you are 2x to 3x more likely to stick with your habits if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how you will perform the behavior. For example, in one study scientists asked people to fill out this sentence: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].”

Researchers found that people who filled out this sentence were 2x to 3x more likely to actually exercise compared to a control group who did not make plans for their future behavior. Psychologists call these specific plans “implementation intentions” because they state when, where, and how you intend to implement a particular behavior.

The Scientific Argument for Mastering One Thing at a Time | James Clear

The rest of the article is more about the philosophy of concentrating. Read the full piece.

More on doing fewer things at once

This may be the thing you need to know most: stop with the multitasking. It is bad. It is rubbish. Here’s someone with a psychology background agreeing with me:

One thing at a time — For many years the psychology research has shown that people can only attend to one task at a time. Let me be even more specific. The research shows that people can attend to only one cognitive task at a time. You can only be thinking about one thing at a time. You can only be conducting one mental activity at a time. So you can be talking or you can be reading. You can be reading or you can be typing. You can be listening or you can be reading. One thing at a time.

We fool ourselves — We are pretty good at switching back and forth quickly, so we THINK we are actually multi-tasking, but in reality we are not.

The one exception — The only exception that the research has uncovered is that if you are doing a physical task that you have done very very often and you are very good at, then you can do that physical task while you are doing a mental task. So if you are an adult and you have learned to walk then you can walk and talk at the same time.

The True Cost Of Multi-Tasking – Susan Weinschenk Ph.D, Psychology Today (18 September 2012)

That last bit about physical tasks was new to me but I think we all need reminding of the problems of multitasking. As ever, read the full piece.

Five habits that hurt your productivity

This is a Globe and Mail article that I think sounds shocked at the stunning idea that multitasking could be rubbish. Ignore that and see this as a refresher and I think it’s useful.

Entrepreneurs are expected to do everything and be everything at all times. It’s part of business, especially when you’re first starting out.

However, there are some seemingly productive habits that you may have formed that are actually killing your success in the long term. The candle that burns brightest, burns fastest, and while it’s crucial for you to be productive with your time, you also need to focus on not burning out.

You’re actually hurting your business with these five ‘productive’ habits – The Globe and Mail

Read the full piece.