Single-Tasking: The Power of Focus

Posted September 21, 2012 by Rebecca Niziol in Life After Five


Multi-tasking has been the modern woman’s not-so-secret weapon. We were literally made for this. If you can’t juggle drinking your pumpkin spice latte, tweeting about your new favorite blogger, walking to your next meeting, and thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner, then how are you going to survive in this world?

This is a thought that we all seemed to buy into for a little while, before realizing that it’s complete bullshit. There’s a time and place for simultaneously completing rather mindless tasks. Of course you can brush your teeth while picking out your outfit in the morning, no harm there. But when are you really able to create, engage, or passionately complete something when you’re doing four other things at the same time? Oh that’s right, you can’t.

Many women have honed the skill of multi-tasking, so much so that they’ve become experts. You’re probably pretty good at it yourself. On the surface it makes sense to think that doing it all at once would be more effective. Look closer at the harm: you lose impact and efficiency, and leave out passion when taking on too much at once. Multi-tasking is OUT, single-tasking is IN. 

If you are doing anything that involves right-brain thinking (creativity, intuition, connection, big picture) you want to have ALL of your focus and attention available. A few of the benefits of this type of focus include higher quality work, greater sense of accomplishment, and added fuel to tackle the next task on hand.  If you’re having trouble keeping your attention to whatever is on your plate in the moment, try these tips:

  • Remove distractions. A clean space is one of the greatest ways to clear out any possible tangents you could stumble on. Put to-do lists, assignments, and other projects out of sight and give yourself the gift of a clutter-free space and mind.
  • Unplug what you can. Try the One Tech Device Rule whenever possible. If you’re writing marketing material, turn off your cell. If you have an important conference call, shut your computer down. Your emails and texts are happy to wait until you’re done.
  • Prioritize. Break down your day into segmented time for each item on your to-do list. By completing what is absolutely necessary first, you won’t feel the pressure to squeeze in more later. Your instinct may be to force more onto your list than you can handle, so start by taking a few things off to allow for surprises or emergencies. Remember you are looking for quality over quantity for these bigger tasks.
  • Practice discipline. We’ve been so engrained to multi-task that this may take time and practice. Start right now by making small adjustments. Try asking yourself at the top of the hour: “What shall I be focusing on right now?” Answer candidly and then take action.

Start treating things with the importance they deserve. I’ve found that holding mini-intensives for projects keeps me on track and gives me better results than if I just smashed the work among other things in my day. Try it on yourself, and see the power of focus. Take the single-task challenge (it’s simple): Pick one thing to accomplish. Do only that. Celebrate!

About the Author

Rebecca Niziol

Rebecca Niziol, ELI-MP, is many things: a life coach, yoga teacher, dancer, event planner, connection catalyst, and your new best friend. Her mission is to empower others to live the authentic life of their dreams. After years of traveling North America and Europe, she is happy to have found a home and community in Chicago.