Four months ago, I found myself on the verge of feeling burnt out by my life and work responsibilities.
In an attempt to prevent that from happening, I knew that my routine needed reshuffling.
What did the new me do? I decided to log out of my social media accounts the minute I stepped into my office and whenever I entered my bedroom.
I gave up listening to music while working, cooking, driving, or when doing almost anything I did.
I stopped opening many web browser tabs to check multiple email addresses at once. In fact, I removed my email from my tablet devices to prevent myself from checking my emails the minute I woke up in the morning.
In a nutshell, I decided to focus on one activity at a time.
As insignificant as these small habits may sound, it was extremely challenging and I realised that I had been a multitasking addict.
My mind had been wired for a very long time to focus on several projects at once. I even prided myself on being an efficient multitasker.
This resonates with a recent New York Times column on why people should stop multitasking and be fully present with whatever they are doing, one activity at a time.
If you had tried to gain control over your focus by panning out your day sequentially and focusing on one task at hand, you would have probably come to realise that learning how to do it will not only help eliminate feelings of stress and anxiety and enhance productivity but also teach an essential skill needed to thrive in an uncertain time.
Multitasking isn’t something new. In fact, in a digital age where everything is expected almost instantly, multitaskers are celebrated for their exceptional skills to master several projects at a time.
This is not to say that we should never multitask, as several situations would require us to use this skill.
However, multitasking, in the long run, hinders productivity, could prevent us from forming new habits and negatively affect our health.
Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, discusses in his book how multitasking can interfere with our ability to develop new habits because we are constantly switching between different tasks.
In her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain says multitasking can hinder productivity, contribute to stress and can even lead to health issues.
In Islam, focusing on prayers and being present in mind five times a day is a core requirement and those who have mastered concentration in prayer discuss the rewards reaped for feeling more grounded and less stressed.
I have to admit that when I began training myself to focus on a single task, I felt constrained and feared that it would take me longer to complete the tasks at hand and how that would negatively affect my work with my clients.
However, I have come to realise that by splitting my focus across several tasks, I deprived myself of the enjoyment of being fully immersed in the task at hand.
I’ve since experienced an increase in productivity and overall life satisfaction.
We will always have so much to do and in a world in which our jobs require so much in so little time, reclaiming our focus can help us to develop our skills, enjoy our week and, ultimately, our lives.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications adviser based in Abu Dhabi