One Thing at a Time: Why Singular Focus Improves Productivity




Be honest: you’re doing something else right now while reading this sentence, aren’t you? Maybe texting? Checking email? Or watching that adorable panda video?

For meeting planners, multitasking is far more than a time-saver; it’s a lifestyle.

“In our culture of multitaskers, we attempt to accomplish more by doing several things at once,” says Devora Zack, an author, motivational speaker and leadership coach. “But here’s the rub: Multitasking fails us. Why? Because it doesn’t work.”

Wait – what?

“In reality, multitasking decreases our productivity, and by no small measure: as much as 40 percent,” she explains. “What’s more, researchers and neuroscientists from Stanford to Harvard to the University of London agree that multitasking not only hurts our productivity; it also lowers our IQ and shrinks our brain.”

To quote Scooby-Doo, ruht-roh! So much for a career in meeting planning, right?

Wrong. Zack has an alternative that could make you more efficient and effective by becoming less scattered.

In her new book, Singletasking: Get More Done – One Thing at a Time, Zack maps out these seven steps to a more present, productive and successful you.

  1. Accept that multitasking is an illusion. Dr. Earl Miller of MIT says that because our brains can’t simultaneously process multiple streams of information, multitasking is a myth. What we’re actually doing is task-switching; moving rapidly but ineffectively between tasks.
  1. Build up your concentration. How often do you meet someone and instantly forget her name? That’s because you were task-switching. Singletasking helps develop the ability to focus.
  1. Own your environment. Distractions happen; it’s up to us to control them. Minimize all audiovisual noise while working, including chimes, ringers, pings, pop-ups, alerts and social media messaging.
  1. Immerse yourself in singletasking. Don’t try to complete every task at once. Instead, manage them in sequence to give each your full attention.
  1. Systematically file interruptions: Don’t discard distracting thoughts; simply learn to “park” them in a designated spot, such as the notes page on your smartphone, for later consideration. That way, you won’t lose focus on the work at hand.
  1. Cluster related tasks. If texts, emails and other distractions tend to divert your attention, consider clustertasking, in which you bunch related taskSingletask3s together and address them at specific intervals, such as arrival, lunch and end of day.
  1. Make time for quiet reflection: Multitasking distracts us from contemplation and introspection. Carve out a slice of time every day to be alone with your thoughts.

“You’ll be amazed at what being present will do for your life, career and relationships,” says Zack. “You’ll reclaim your life, regain control, and remember what really matters.”

Tip of the hat to Cathy Lewis for connecting us to Singletasking. You can learn more about Devora Zack, CEO of Only Connect Consulting in Bethesda, Md., through her website,

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald is an award-winning journalist, author and blogger who incorporates humor and human interest into a broad range of topics. Follow him on Twitter @omnisaurus

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