Time Management Tip #9: DO One Thing at a Time

By now I am hoping you have run across something advising you not to multi-task. It seems to be a popular topic. But why shouldn’t you multi-task? Let me see if I can shine some light on it. My thoughts here are taken from research, the experience of my clients and my own personal experiences.

First, consider how your brain functions. Our brains are brilliant when we focus on one task at a time. But our brains cannot actually focus on more than one thing at a time. When we try to, this leads to fragmented attention, which results in inefficiencies of time.

When you try to focus on more than one thing at a time, it is a little like having more than one window open on your computer. You cannot look at both at the same time. You have to toggle back and forth. Even if they were both on your screen at the same time, you would still have to move your attention from one to the other and back. The research indicates that it takes 5-7 seconds to move your attention from one project or topic to another. So if you are “simultaneously” working on a brief and looking at your email, each time you switch your attention you lose at least 5 seconds of time. Additionally, you are far more likely to get confused and make a mistake.


Have you ever called someone when you are doing another task and by the time they answer, you have forgotten who you called?

Do one thing at a time. You may be surprised how much more efficient you are. You are focusing your concentration on one thing. You are bringing all of your faculties to one thing. You are not splitting your attention so you will finish the task faster and importantly, with fewer mistakes. Obviously, the mistakes that come from multi-tasking will cause you time down the road as well. So, try it for yourself. It may sound crazy, but give it a try and see what happens.

About the Author

Cami McLaren

Cami McLaren

is the owner of McLaren Coaching. She has been coaching attorneys and management since early 2008. She wrote a book, published by the American Bar Association, "Coaching for Attorneys: Improving Productivity and Achieving Balance." She coaches attorneys and managers one-on-one, and provides in-house training designed to improve productivity and bring accountability to the organization.

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