Single tasking and visual silence

By johannatime On November 23, 2012 Under Quality of Life and Work

Single tasking saves you tons of time

Trying to do two things at the same time is nothing but switching between them as fast as you can. The switching itself takes time and energy. The more switching, the more time wasted. On average, the switching is as time consuming as is the actual tasks you switch between. This means doing two tasks at the same time, for example replying e-mails whilst having a conversation on the phone, takes twice as long as having the conversation and then replying the e-mails. By multi tasking, you overwhelm yourself and you are not productuve. Besides, it is rude not to pay full attention to someone on the phone.

But still you multi task…

Multitasking happens on more subtle levels, too, your brain is doing it all the time. When you try to get some work done, your thoughts often wander off, and disctract you. This phenomenon is frequently caused by sensory input from your surroundings:

  • Music or conversation
  • The scent of food (or coffee!)
  • Uncomfortable posture

And last but not least

  • A lot of interesting things to look at. Have a look around your own work space now. You might see things like

– Tons of icons on your desktop, and you think: ‘I should clean that up a bit, soon’

– A plant, dying, begging you for some water

– A pin board hosting lots of (overdue) reminders about all the things you need to do

– Some stacks of reports and paperwork, hopefully nothing in that stack needs attention from you now, because you wouldn’t even know!

– A post it note, barely sticking on the side of your screen reminding you of a phone call you should have made yesterday, and reminding you of the fact that there was something else, too, that you forgot

Just some thoughts anyone could have within one minute when working at an average desk. Everybody who can see, has visual distractions all the time. It costs you an enormous amount of time, money and energy, because your brain runs after them, just to get away from that complicated decicion, that impossible task, that commitment that needs closure.

So to focus your attention and get some work done, you need visual silence:

  • A clear desk;
  • If you are sitting, a good desk chair;
  • An empty room only occupied by functional tools that facilitate you to do the tasks on your list. Consider Activity Based Working!
  • Calming yet inspiring colored walls
  • Pleasant daylight or lighting

Try to truly single task. See if it increases your productivity and please share your experiences in the comments below:

Johanna Jansen

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