These days, people often wear their “ability” to multitask as a badge of honor. We’ve all been there: sitting at our desk, computer humming, files open, checking e-mails, talking on the phone, and listening to a colleague all at the same time. Impressive, yes? No. It’s neither impressive nor effective. This is the myth of multitasking.

When we multitask, our brains shift back and forth rapidly between two or more tasks, but, because our brains cannot process two different thoughts simultaneously, this decreases performance and takes more energy, creating cognitive drain. We just don’t do a good job when we multitask.

Instead, we should unitask, which means to do one thing at a time. This is a tricky idea for most of us, accustomed as we are to doing three things at once, and it requires a bit of brain retraining. But here’s how to do it:

-Focus on one thing at a time.
-When you read an e-mail, read only that e-mail. Focus on the words.
-When you talk on the phone, talk on the phone. Focus on the conversation.
-When someone is speaking to you, stop what you are doing, look them in the eye, and listen to what they are saying.
-When you wash dishes, wash dishes. Focus on the water, the dish in your hands.
-When you walk, walk. Focus on nature and the air around you (rather than on the screen of your smartphone).
-When you drive, drive. Focus on the road and the drivers around you.

The key is to be mindful of exactly what we are doing when we are doing it, and to focus on just that one thing. If another thought or urge pops into your head, acknowledge it, but then return your focus. When your mind wanders, bring it back. Unitask. It’s the key to true purposeful productivity.

Author's Bio: 

Camille Preston, Author of Rewired: How to Work Smarter, Live Better, and Be Purposefully Productive in an Overwired World. I would love to get Camille booked on your show.

Camille is a highly sought-after speaker, writer, executive coach, psychologist and facilitator. She specializes in training individuals, executives, teams, and organizations to be effective, productive, and authentic in a virtual world. Her clients include Harvard University, MIT, the Asia Foundation, NBC, Zappos, MGM Mirage, Citrix, the Corporate Executive Board, Mars, Verizon, GE, the US Army, and others.