One Task At A Time

PMI Washington, DC Chapter +2

Beth Spriggs' professional career began in information technology in 1999. As a certified PMP with over a decade of project management experience, she has combined her love for tech and project management by focusing her career on managing technology projects and portfolios. She is author of The Project Manager's Little Book of Cheats.

You might have heard that single-tasking is a sound strategy for managing project work and productivity. But in a hyper-connected world that expects and encourages multi-tasking, how is it even possible? Here are four tactics to help you "single task" and reap the benefits.

Countless job descriptions include “must be good at multi-tasking” as a requirement. We set up our schedules, mailboxes and organization systems to enable us to multi-task. But the truth remains — we can’t effectively do more than one task at a time. What we are really doing is task-switching. We're jumping around from one thing to another very quickly, forcing our brain to switch between ideas, processes and concepts. It’s like we’re trying to read five books at a time, one paragraph at a time. At the end of every paragraph we put the book down and pick up the next book. And each time we switch we have to remember where we left off and get back into the context. How much faster would it be to just read one book at a time!

A task-switching study conducted by Gloria Mark, Professor in the Department of Informatics at the University of California found that people switch activities on average every three minutes, with roughly half of them being self-interruptions. For example, you’re working on something and stop to read the latest LinkedIn postings, or to …

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"Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits."

- Mark Twain