MoreSalesLessTime Challenge #2: Single Tasking

Thu Jan 26, 2017

Jill Konrath

If you did our first experiment the other day, you probably noticed how tough it actually was to not have email open single taskingall the time.

The truth is, we’re addicted to email. Literally addicted. Every single time we check it, a dose of dopamine surges through our system — and we feel better. Even just the thought of checking it out pulls us in, as we keep hoping for that one very important message to come through.

But, it’s killing our productivity. We think we’re multi-tasking, but our brains really aren’t wired to do this well.

Here’s why:

Daniel Levitin, who’s a neuroscientist and the author of The Organized Mind, says, “So we’re not actually keeping a lot of balls in the air like an expert juggler. We’re more like a bad amateur plate spinner, frantically switching from one task to another. Even though we think we’re getting a lot done, ironically, multi-tasking makes us less efficient.”

Less efficient. And, not only that, but did you know that repeated task switching leads to anxiety? We feel more stressed. Our body releases cortisol — a stress hormone. When that happens, we’re less able to think clearly. And, we come up with fewer options for solving tough sales challenges.

But wait! There’s more. Psychologist Glen Wilson, while he was a visiting professor at Gresham College in London, found that constantly emailing and texting reduces your mental capacity significantly.

Women’s IQ dropped an average of five points. For men, the constant switching was catastrophic. Their IQ dropped 15 points. That’s worse than what happens if you’re smoking pot.

So everything we’re doing to try to stay on top of our game is actually making it worse. Painful to say. And, I know it’s true because it’s exactly what I struggled with myself. I was working harder, getting less done, feeling stressed out and having a hard time getting my head around challenging situations.

Obviously, there are no quick fixes to change this. Believe me, if there was a shot, an antidote or a cure, I would have begged to take it. But the truth is, we have to rethink how we’re working and ultimately change how we spend our working hours so we not only get more done, but also are smarter — for our clients and for us.

So let’s talk about today’s challenge: Single tasking.

What is single tasking? Doing one thing at a time, for a period of time. Not bouncing from one type of work to another.

For the next couple days, I want you to just pay attention to how often you feel compelled to switch tasks — right in the middle of whatever you’re doing. Keep a little note page at your desk. Make a mark for every time you do it.

Awareness of how fragmented we’re working is the first step to making change. Some studies today are showing that we’re actually jumping to something new every 2-3 minutes. No wonder our poor brains are so darn overloaded and we’re so stressed out.

Then, experiment with how long you actually work on a single task. Throw yourself into this, knowing full well that the more focused you can be on any one task, the faster you’ll get it done and the higher quality work you’ll do.

Have fun with this challenge. It can be a toughie, but it’s an important step in owning your day.

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About Jill Konrath

Jill Konrath is a frequent speaker at sales conferences and kick-off meetings. Sharing her fresh sales strategies, she helps salespeople speed up new customer acquisition and win bigger contracts. Her clients include IBM, GE, Microsoft, Wells Fargo, Staples and numerous mid-market firms.

View all posts by Jill Konrath