We live in a world where we can barely watch TV without feeling as though we need to be doing something else, such as folding laundry or doing sit-ups, because simply sitting feels wrong. We eat while we drive, listen to a podcast while we cook, text while walking. Yet for all the cache of multitasking, what often happens? We end up doing several things not quite as well as we might have if we’d focused on one thing at a time. So, while it may seem counterintuitive in a busy work day, you may need to teach and encourage your employees to work on one item at a time.
- Teach them that productivity goes UP. Think of your brain as a giant searchlight: It focuses on one thing at a time, and everything else gets left in the dark. If you’re trying to divide your attention, you’ll only partially engage with each item, potentially bringing your productivity down and increasing the time to finish each by 25 percent. This also depletes your reserves of energy, giving you less over the work day. Encourage employees to make a list and give concentrated focus to ONE thing at a time to increase productivity and efficiency.
- Allow them NOT to be responsive at all times. Because of texting, phones and email, employees get into the habit of responding immediately to all communication interruptions. This puts them into a constant state of reaction and doesn’t allow them to concentrate on their current work project. Create a culture of waiting — suggest they even have blocks of time when they only answer the most urgent of requests so they can give their undivided attention to each separate task.
- Increased focus means increased attention to detail. Speaking of cooking while listening to something, have you ever done that and at the end, realized you forgot a key ingredient? Or accidentally put in two tablespoons of salt instead of ½? Multitasking often leads to us overlooking crucial information because our brains really do have trouble focusing on more than one task at a time. When you encourage employees to do the latter, they’ll find themselves paying attention to details and adapting more readily when something needs to be changed. And they’ll clearly be able to cross each item off their list instead of leaving things half-done.
When you teach employees to single-task, it may seem counterintuitive, but encouragement and guidance from you will help them form new habits that will have them taking on their work with increased focus…and give them the satisfaction of getting things done one task at a time. Read our related management content and reach out to our recruiters to discuss a staffing partnership today!