Did you know that from a brain science perspective it is actually IMPOSSIBLE to consciously focus on two things at once? “Oh no, you’re wrong, I do it all the time, and women are better at it than men”, I hear you say.
Before I bust this myth, I want to differentiate between FOCUS & DOING. You can DO two things at once, like talking on the phone and driving your car, but you CANNOT consciously FOCUS on 2 things simultaneously.
When talking on the phone and driving your car, chances are your subconscious is driving your car for you – it is a well ingrained ‘habit loop’ stored in your brain, so your conscious simply hands the reigns over to your subconscious, pretty much as soon as you get in the car.
When you THINK you are doing two or more things simultaneously, what is actually happening, from a brain perspective is one of two things:
- Your subconscious is taking care of one, or more, of the things you THINK you are doing simultaneously as mentioned above, or,
- Your conscious brain is jumping between the different things at quite a fast rate, so it FEELS like you are focusing on more than one thing at a time, but really, you are ‘switching’ your focus regularly.
The purpose of me busting that multi-tasking myth for you today is because trying to FOCUS on more than one thing at a time actually SLOWS YOU DOWN and makes you LESS productive.
This is something that I have been actively working on in my own life because my brain is so full of ‘stuff’ and is ALWAYS jumping all over the place and getting distracted, so I am trying to implement the tool of simply focusing on ONE THING at a time and it’s REALLY HARD!
A few things I have learned through practicing this myself that might help you are as follows…..
My tips for success
1. Decide: The first step to success is deciding that you are going to FOCUS on ONLY one thing and then deciding what that one thing will be.
I recommend trying this using 1 x hour blocks of time (or until you have completed that task). It’s easier to focus for shorter periods of time to start with. When you feel your brain drifting off onto something else, remember to bring your focus BACK to the task at hand, and worry about other things later.
Sometimes this is easier said than done because our brains have a way to make things feel urgent or important when quite often they can wait.
2. Minimise distractions: Notice all the distractions that pop up for you and take action to PREVENT these from reoccurring or minimise their impact.
For example, turn off notifications on your computer and/or phone; turn your phone to ‘do not disturb’, or silent; turn off the notification ‘sounds’ on your computer or phone.
Set your emails up so that they do not simply ‘pop in’ to your computer but you have to actively retrieve them. Schedule times to check your emails once, twice or three times a day (whatever works for you, given the demands of your job etc.).
You may even choose to make a note of this in your email signature, so that people know you are not immediately contactable, all the time.
3. Practice: the main thing I have learned since trialling this ‘focused activity’ is that it takes TIME to master it, so therefore requires practice, and you should EXPECT that you will get distracted to start with.
Once you start to see the results though, it will get easier to do. You will notice that you FEEL calmer and more relaxed because you have created ‘space’ in your mind to focus, and you will also notice that you actually get MORE done!
I’d love to hear from any of you willing to try this out, and find out what you learnt, as well as any other tips you can give to others who would like to give it a go. You can get in touch with me using the form at the bottom of my coaching page.
You might also be interested in my blog about doing a technology ‘fast’ – that is a sure-fire way to remove many of the distractions in our current world! ?