Uni-tasking, as you might have figured, is to focus on one thing at a time.
And as a serial multi-tasker who is used to juggling many things at once, the idea of sitting down for hours to complete a task is a little bit daunting.
I was sceptical.
Nevertheless, I decided to try uni-tasking for a full day, with two guidelines in mind.
(1) Avoid multitasking if it divides my attention
That means I could have music running in the background while doing work (because that never distracts me), but I shouldn’t be listening to a podcast or watching videos while working.
(2) Seek to maximise productivity
If I worked on solely one project at a time, I wouldn’t be doing anything else for several days.
So I can’t afford to uni-task to the extreme, but I can divide each task into subtasks and choose to uni-task each of those.
I was in for an interesting experience. Here’s how my day working from home as a freelancer went.
8.15am - I woke up and got breakfast
I normally eat breakfast with my phone in my hand. (Horrid habit, I know.) Phone-less this morning, I found myself finishing my food within 15 minutes. That was quick.
9.35am – I did the chores
It went fine. I normally uni-task this anyway.
9.55am – I read a book, then broke my flow
As I read, a text came in. It was a friend asking for a small favour.
I handled it straight away because it would only take like two minutes, then I realised I broke my uni-tasking streak.
That was quick.
10.03am – I got back into reading
I continued reading for a few more minutes before I remembered a small task I had to do soon.
It made more sense to do it right away, but in the name of uni-tasking, I left it till later.
10.30am – I started work
So far, so good. I got half an hour of uninterrupted reading done and I started work.
I normally reply my texts even when working, and not doing that today made me feel antsy. However, I also felt a little liberated to be able to focus on only one task.
10.52am – A work-related text came in
The task was kind of important, too. So it was time to make a choice: Should I work on the new task or stick to the old?
I decided on a halfway solution: to handle the most urgent part of the new task, then go back to my first task.
It ended up being a productive choice. I think this is one of those situations where uni-tasking blindly would have been a bad idea.
11:33am – I took a food break
As I took my break, I noted that I was a lot more stressed than usual.
Though uni-tasking was allowing me to make solid progress in each task, I was also growing very stressed about not having made headway in other tasks.
Then I realised I was used to using multitasking as a stress reliever, since it made me feel like I was on top of everything at once. That’s not necessarily a good thing either.
11.50am – Back to work
I finished handling two small tasks then buckled down to work on a research-heavy article.
12:31pm – I started craving distractions. Like, really craving them.
I kept thinking of lunch. I thought about catching up on the news. I wondered if I should go make a cup of coffee.
A moment later dismay sinks in as I realised I was craving distractions to deal with the stress. I tried to press on, anyway.
12.48pm - A small work-related task came in
And I caved. I put away my article and jumped on this new task. This one I got done with no distractions.
1.15pm - I had lunch
It’s easy to uni-task meals, thankfully. With nothing to distract me, I felt full very quickly.
This would have never happened if my mind was busy on a video or podcast.
2.06pm – I started working on another article
I was supposed to work on the research-heavy article, but as I got to my desk, inspiration hit for another article.
I decide to follow the inspiration and switch tasks. And it paid off - I got a lot more covered than I normally would have.