Integrative Nutrition Blog

9 Ways to Single-Task to Lower Your Stress Levels

June 16, 2017

Image via Shutterstock.

Quick—how many tabs do you have open on your computer right now? More than one, right? If you’re not on a computer, the odds are good that you’re reading this while on line at the grocery store, or riding the subway, or while walking down the street. If this sounds like you, you’re probably a really amazing multi-tasker... But that’s not necessarily a good thing.

With the rise in technology over the past few years, we’ve become skilled at doing a million things at once. Unfortunately, that often means that we’re not doing those activities as efficiently or masterfully as possible. And even worse, constant multi-tasking can add unnecessary stress and anxiety into your life. It feels like everything needs to be done, and all at once. The overwhelm is real.

Instead of trying to do everything at the same time and never really finishing anything, try single- tasking. It’s exactly what it sounds like—do one thing at a time, until you’ve completed the task. That’s it! Yes, it’s pretty basic in theory, but it’s way more challenging than it seems. Keep scrolling for some of our favorite single-task activities to add into your everyday routine. You’ll be surprised by how much you can accomplish—and how different it makes you feel!

Spend the first hour of your morning phone-less
Think about the first thing that you usually do in the morning—roll over, turn off the alarm on your phone, maybe hit snooze, and then check all the email, text, and Instagram notifications on your device from bed. Most of the time we aren’t even fully awake, and our first instinct is to check in with what we missed in the eight hours we were sleeping! No wonder we’re stressed out. Here’s the thing—those emails will be there whether you check them from bed at 6 a.m. or from your desk at 8 a.m. ... fretting over them first thing in the morning probably won’t make you better at your job, and it definitely isn’t healthy for your psyche.
Tomorrow, try spending the first 30 minutes of your day without your phone. Wake up, shower, make coffee, get ready for work—all without checking in on technology. You’ll be surprised at how much more quickly you’ll get ready (seriously!) and how much more centered you’ll feel once you do start working.

Work using the pomodoro method
The pomodoro method is a popular work efficiency technique used by some of the world’s most productive and creative people, and it has everything to do with single-tasking. The basic idea: Set a timer for 20 minutes and work straight through on one task without stopping. After the timer goes off, take a 5- to 10-minute break from your work—get a glass of water, go to the bathroom, read a short article in a magazine, anything that’ll give you a real mental break from your work. As soon as your break is over, get back to work.

Ditch the music next time you commute
How many times have you gotten in the car to drive to work or the grocery store or your yoga class, and before you knew it you were already at your destination? Without thinking or paying attention, you made it to your destination. You were likely distracted by something—the radio, a podcast, a phone call with a friend—and weren’t really paying attention to the road. Kind of scary! Try a silent commute next time you’re in the car. Really see the scenery around you, the other cars, the people driving next to you. You’ll be shocked at how much you’ve never noticed about your usual driving route!

Listen to an entire album from start to finish
It sounds kind of old school, but listen to an entire album from start to finish. Lay on your bed or couch, and just enjoy the music. Imagine it’s like a private concert from the comfort of your own home.

Watch an entire movie without fidgeting on your phone or computer
So many of us are guilty of this: You’re watching a movie with your friend or partner, but both of you are scrolling through your phone or skimming the web at the same time! Treat your home like a movie theatre—make some popcorn, turn out the lights, silence your phone, and don't get up until the movie is over.

Practice meditation breaks twice a day
Meditation is the definition of single-tasking! Check in with yourself twice a day for 10 minutes. Find a calm space where you can take a second to get really quiet and clear your mind. It’ll hit the reset button on your brain—which is particularly necessary on those ultra-stressful days at the office.

Cook yourself dinner without distraction

Did you know that cooking can be considered meditative? Closely following a recipe and chopping, measuring, and preparing the necessary ingredients requires serious attention to detail, which makes cooking a great single-task activity.

Read a book
Basic, but still valid! Spend an hour just reading—put your phone in another room, and enjoy your paperback.

Schedule your email check-in times in your calendar
Think about how many times you end up refreshing your email on the daily—you do it while waiting for another tab on your internet browser to refresh, while on line at the bank, while you’re chatting with a friend, and while you should be writing that report or calculating your expenses. It’s distracting, and usually it’s a time suck because emails typically don’t require an immediate response. Basically, your inbox can wait. Instead of checking your emails throughout the day, try checking them once in the morning and once in the evening. Schedule a chunk of time to go through them and respond—30 minutes should be fine if you don’t have a lot of email correspondence, but up to 90 minutes could be necessary if you’re an email fiend. This should be the only time that you check your inbox. It will be hard not to check in at first, but eventually you’ll notice a huge difference in the amount you can get done during the day when you’re not stopping halfway through every task to respond to an email. 

How are you going to single-task? Share with us below!

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