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How to Focus: Commit to Single Tasking

September 6, 2022



Note From Rochelle


Dear Writers,


I have started a brand-new coaching group for college students who struggle with focus. They might be formally diagnosed with ADHD, or they may just have difficulty overcoming distractions and getting work done on time. If you know anyone who might be interested, please send them to this page.

Speaking of groups, if YOU need a little help focusing or getting writing done, think about joining one of my accountability groups for the fall. I have room for two more people in each group.

The Writing Accountability Group will focus on helping you overcome distraction and procrastination, sustain focus, and finish work. This is ideal for writers who want to complete projects, but it can be helpful for anyone who struggles with distraction or focus. Check out the Writing Accountability Group.

The Writing Goddess Group gives you the opportunity to have your work read and commented on every other week by me and your colleagues. Our meetings give you the opportunity to stay accountable to your goals and get help when you get off track. Check out the Goddesses.

Today’s tip is another in my series on How to Focus! Read on to learn why multi-tasking does not work and how you can rock single tasking!


Happy writing,

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach


How to Focus: Commit to Single Tasking

By Rochelle Melander


Raise your hand if you believe in multi-tasking! You know, managing your social media while creating new content. Writing while fielding questions from children or colleagues. Planning a new project while checking on the progress of current projects.


I found an article online that encouraged multitasking and touted it as a skill employers value. The writer provided several scenarios, which I used as a resource for my own examples. The article did include a warning: “The danger in multitasking is that effectiveness can be compromised if the worker tries to carry out too many tasks at the same time.”


That’s not quite true.


Adding even a single task to your current focus can compromise your effectiveness.


Let’s start by learning what multitasking really is. When we move back and forth between multiple tasks, psychologists call it “context switching.” Multitasking disrupts your ability to focus.


The effects of multitasking are daunting:

+It affects your thinking. Studies show that multitasking makes it harder for you to organize your thoughts, dismiss irrelevant information, and focus.

+Task switching lowers your speed and accuracy. When you switch between tasks, it takes extra time to refocus on each task. Because you’re switching, you’re more likely to make mistakes.

+It lowers your IQ. Multitasking can have the same effect on your IQ as staying up all night or smoking marijuana.

+Media multitasking (e.g., texting while watching television) can hurt your ability to pay attention and remember information.

+The effects of media multitasking might be permanent. (Yikes!) Researchers at the University of Sussex looked at the MRI brain scans of people who participated in media multitasking. “They found that high multitaskers had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region responsible for empathy as well as cognitive and emotional control.”


When you’re busy, it’s tempting to tackle multiple projects at once. But you will be much more effective if you focus on a single task at a time. Here’s how:


+Remember the Pomodoro Method? Divide your day into 25- or 45-minute chunks and assign a single task to each chunk.

+Turn off anything that might distract you. If you have difficulty doing this, you can purchase a tool to block out distractions. Popular examples include Freedom or Serene.

+ Set a timer and do the single thing. If it’s writing, then write. When you finish, take a quick, energy boosting break. Then move on to the next single thing.

+Keep a notebook or a file open and jot down tasks or ideas that threaten to pull your attention from your purpose.


For the Win

Any time you’ve been able to ditch multitasking, overcome monkey mind, and focus on writing for a set amount of time, you have won the game. As you work on single tasking, you’ll strengthen the muscles that help you focus and you’ll get better at doing it.



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