How Unitasking and
Etiquette are Related

Multi-tasking Parents

Multi-tasking has been a popular method of productivity for years.  But research is now debunking the myth that you can get more done when you do more at the same time.

Even switch-tasking - focusing back and forth on one task to the other - is proven to be drastically less productive than you may think.

Which leads us back to the old-fashioned method of getting things done: unitasking, or simply doing one thing at a time.

Not only is unitasking proven to make you more productive, it also makes you more etiquette-ful.

The Pitfalls of Multi-tasking

Multi-tasking, and even switch-tasking, can give the illusion that you are busy, in demand, a mover and shaker.  But this perception only exists in a small number of scenarios.

The majority of the time, you likely appear to be flighty, unorganized, and unable to focus.  Your boss is afraid to think of the number of typos in your presentation, your spouse and children feel they can't get your full attention, and you've had several near-misses on the road because you just had to answer that one text message.

Constant busy-ness will definitely steal the important things in life if you let it.

The Virtues of Unitasking

The practice of doing one thing at a time is nothing new.  But it is a best practice.

Imagine how much better you might communicate at work and at home if you allowed yourself to finish one thought before moving on to another one.

Rather than consuming your time and energy with busy-ness, you focused your attention on one thing, completed it, then moved on to another thing and completed it.

This exercise in mindfulness allows you to check off each task on your to-do list more quickly.  It saves energy because you are not only focusing on a single thing, you also don't have to use your brain power to remember at what point you left one project to move to another one.

Therefore, it is established that unitasking helps you move a project to completion more quickly, and reduces the amount of physical and mental energy you have to give to a project, which also reduces your stress level.

Now that's a win-win!

One More Thing!

We've established that unitasking has more advantages than multi-tasking.  But how does it make you more etiquette-ful?

When you are less stressed, more focused, and give yourself room to be attentive to the people and situations around you, you automatically tune in to the needs of, and how you interact with, other people.

Here are a few examples:

  • You are driving during rush hour and see the blinker on the car ahead of you in the other lane.  So you are prepared when that driver suddenly moves into your lane, and brake appropriately so you don't hit him.  Your attentiveness also saved you a fit of anger.
  • Your spouse comes home from work and you immediately tune-in to the fact that something is wrong.  You turn off the television, put your phone away, and focus on the conversation he needs to have with you, because he needs your attention and support in that moment.
  • You are walking your dog on a busy street enjoying the gorgeous afternoon.  You see another dog walker, phone in hand, getting yelled at by a neighbor because he wasn't paying attention when his dog used the neighbor's yard as her toilet, and didn't clean up the mess.

Notice the common denominator in each situation above: attention.  By paying attention and being mindful of the things and people in your vicinity, you can effortlessly give the gifts of courtesy and kindness.

Put it into Practice

Begin practicing unitasking and incorporate it into your life.  I challenge you to try it every day for a week:

  • Schedule some time each day to "do" unitasking.
  • If you are at work, let your colleagues know you are off limits for "x" amount of time.
  • Disengage your phone, social media, and anything else that will distract you from the task at hand.
  • Carry out a task.  Call the client you've been dreading to speak to, clean out a drawer, write a letter, make a to-do list, etc.
  • When your time is up, or the task completed, write down in a journal how you feel. 

Like any new habit, it will get easier by the end of the week.  You may even notice you feel more productive, have a greater sense of accomplishment, and feel more connected to the people in your life.

You might also notice that you're more empathetic, show more courtesy, and have more respect for others. 

If unitasking has helped you become more etiquette-ful, I'd love to know!  Please post your story on my Facebook page.

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