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By February 22, 2017 6 Comments

I have no idea who creates the eclectic assortment of holidays listed at www.daysoftheyear.com, but I am all in favor of celebrating “Single Task Day” on February 22, 2017! I wrote about this little-known holiday a couple of years ago, and I continue to practice this strategy every day. It enables me to accomplish more in less time! It is a refreshing change of pace.

I proudly add my endorsement to the long list of productivity experts who boldly proclaim that multi-tasking simply doesn’t work! Multi-tasking is an illusion that we are doing 2 things at once. The reality is that our brain is constantly switching between tasks—working harder, but not more efficiently.  Ultimately, multi-tasking wastes time, money, and energy as shown in this infographic from www.fuze.com

In my “Organizing ABC’s” presentation, I state that the letter F stands for “Focus & Finish”—as in focus on one thing at a time and completely finish it before moving on to the next chore, task, or activity. Give yourself wholeheartedly to the task at hand. Do not allow distractions and interruptions to interfere with your progress. Too often, these unrelated activities simply fuel our procrastination.

Our default mode is to give interruptions free reign of our day.

Think about all the dings, rings, and buzzes that usually stop us in our tracks. We act like we are absolutely required to answer every one immediately.  Perhaps we have forgotten that not so very long ago, these urgent notifications did not even exist! We actually left our homes and had no idea if or when anyone had called us. The callers couldn’t even leave a message. We weren’t available 24/7 to the whole wide world. We didn’t know about every tragic news event 1 minute after it happened. We forget what is truly important in our own world because we are swamped with information about everyone else’s world.

The simple solution?

Decide each day what is your one activity/task/project/assignment to accomplish.

Decide to focus all your energy on that one thing until it is finished. It may take one hour or it may take all morning. What matters is that you focus and finish. You will be amazed at the sense of accomplishment you will feel!  And you may be motivated to finish one more thing!!

Here are some simple strategies to make that happen:

  1. Use only one electronic device at a time.

  2. Turn off or disable all notifications.

  3. Allow phone calls to go to voice mail.

  4. Set a timer or alarm for specific activities to help you stay on track.

  5. Read, delete, or respond quickly to emails only at predetermined times.

  6. Shut down your computer at predetermined times.

  7. Turn off your phone or put your phone away at predetermined times.

  8. Hang a “Closed” or “Not Currently Available” on your home office door.

  9. Enjoy good food and conversation sitting around the table without any electronic devices.

  10. Break down big tasks or projects into smaller steps that can be easily completed.

  11. Take advantage of the efficiency of morning, afternoon, and evening routines.

  12. Practice saying “no” so that you can say “yes” to what is most important to you.

As I conclude, may I heartily recommend the engaging book The One Thing by Gary Keller. He goes into much more detail of single-tasking with practical stories from his own life and business. When you finish the book, you will say, “That is how I want to live my life, too!” In fact, I will be using this book for an Organized by Olive Book Club discussion in April. Let me know if you would like to attend!

Peter Bregman summed it all up quite nicely in his blog for the Harvard Business Review (www.hbr.org) by saying,

“There simply was no downside to single tasking . . . the experience was delightful!”

Yes, indeed! Expect to be refreshed and encouraged. Expect to feel efficient and productive. Expect to feel calm and satisfied. You have discovered an exciting new way to focus and finish!

What is the ONE THING you will accomplish today?


Olive Wagar

Author Olive Wagar

More posts by Olive Wagar

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Shirley says:


    I am so glad you published a blog on multi-tasking. I have always said, and I still tell people this, that “If you are focusing on more than one thing at a time, you are not focusing”.

    So much more can be accomplished by doing one thing at a time. I don’t think it is even possible to think of two things at the same time.

    The facts you have published make it very clear that multi-tasking is ineffective. I didn’t know the facts, but I figured out real fast that multi-tasking doesn’t work, at least not for me.

    Of course, there are some situations where you can do two things at once, such as walking on the treadmill while watching tv. ( If it weren’t for tv I wouldn’t be able to spend time on the treadmill !!! )

    Thanks for this blog!

  • Olive Wagar says:

    So glad this article was helpful to you, Shirley! You really do accomplish more by focusing on just one thing at a time.

  • John Notgrass says:

    Great thoughts, Olive. Thank you for sharing this!

  • I know that you are absolutely right. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always co-operate! I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve been working on a project but had to set it aside to wait for information from someone else. Not wanting to be idle in the meantime, I start something else, but because the first task is more important, perhaps time-sensitive, I have to keep checking my email for the reply. Then, when it does come in, I have to switch back to the original project.

    Now that I’ve typed that out, I think I’ve found a solution! Start the second project and decide to focus on it exclusively for 30 minutes, or an hour, or whatever makes sense. Then and only then, check email. Repeat as needed.

    Thank you for inspiring me to figure out something that’s been plaguing me for longer than I remember.

  • Olive says:

    Sounds like a great solution, Janet! Completely devoting yourself to one task, even for 25 minutes, is such a boost to personal productivity. And we often discover that we can actually finish a few things too!! Thanks for including this topic in Professional Organizers Blog Carnival!

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