New Year’s is right around the corner. That means it is time to start making some resolutions. If you’re like me you come up with a list of 20 things, that overwhelm you to the point that you just quit trying. This year, how about you take a different approach. Keep it simple. Why not pick one thing and really perfect it? For example: Lose Weight!
Many of us would like to relearn the art of single-tasking. Achieving goals depends on it. Sanity depends on it. And believe it or not, weight loss depends on it too!
Single-tasking almost seems like a thing of the past. I mean really; when was the last time you only did one thing at a time? The idea is almost laughable. There are so many things competing for our focus and attention that it seems impossible to get them all done. And, when we let them compete head to head, we might get them done, but we likely won’t do them well.
That’s where single-tasking comes in.
Teaching yourself to give detailed focus and attention to one thing at a time will help you do everything better and more efficiently. It will also bring a sense of calm and order to your life. When it comes to losing weight, the clarity and focus single-tasking brings is essential to helping you succeed.
The first step to becoming an effective single-tasker is to stop believing that multitasking is even possible. Devora Zack, author of the book Singletasking, teaches that multitasking decreases an individual’s productivity by as much as 40 percent. She also states that it lowers your IQ and shrinks your brain. How’s that for a negative side effect? Zack also tells us in an article for Time Money that “Multitasking simply doesn’t exist. What you’re really doing is task-switching—the technical term for moving very quickly and ineffectively between tasks. You task-switch within tenths of a second, and thereby don’t consciously notice delays.”
While it may seem daunting to train your brain to believe in single-tasking, it’s well worth the effort because it will benefit your life for years to come. Let’s take a deeper look at what single-tasking has to do with weight loss and how you can get started:
1. Prioritize your to-do list
Let’s start with the obvious. First you have to make your to-do list. The physical act of writing a list makes you more organized and will help keep you focus on the tasks you want to accomplish. After your list is complete, you need to decide which tasks are most important and which can reasonably be done later. It’s helpful to pick your top two priorities each day and give them the majority of your focus. Make sure they are completed before moving to the other items on your list.
We know that diet and exercise add two more things to your already overwhelming to-do list. But when you give them the right focus and attention you’ll have more strength and power to accomplish the rest of the items on your list as well.
Let’s say you struggle at meal time. You know what and when you’re supposed to eat, but if you’re trying to squeeze all your meal planning and preparation into a tiny window of time where you’re in the middle of replying to emails and helping your kids with homework, you’re much more likely to stray off course and eat/prepare something that doesn’t fit with your weight loss needs.
Using a single-tasking approach to meal prep will make all the difference to you. Put meal prep at the top of your weekly to-do list and set aside a block of time at the beginning of each week to plan and prep your meals for the entire week. Focus on making a meal schedule and getting everything prepped and ready to eat.
Having a plan and completing the majority of your prep will make it so much easier to get a meal on the table without the stress of finding the time to fit it in.
Don’t forget about meal replacement shakes either. Fast, easy to make and packed full of all the right nutrients to lose weight the right away.
Leo Babauta, author of the blog Zen Habits, talks about single-tasking. “Life is less tiring when you single-task,” he says. Multitasking not only causes fatigue and burnout but a lack of productivity and thus a lack of accomplishment. It can even cause you to over-snack (or in my case, over-caffeinate). It’s a loss of mental control.
To accomplish more, you have to do less, Babauta says. Meditation is great for this. Especially when it comes to keeping focused on your weight loss goals.
Meditation helps to create mental clarity because it is a quiet, single-task activity. You’re not distracted by driving, cooking, or giving the dog a pedicure. You’re practicing being still…in a quiet room, relaxed, listening, and accepting a self-guided tour through your mind.
Here you have no choice but to be fully present in what you’re doing. If meditating sounds like a foreign concept to you, keep this in mind: “We become what we think about.” (Earl Nightengale)
If you want to be a thinner healthier version of you, start thinking about it! Better yet, think about it while meditating.
3. Eliminate Distractions
It kind of sounds like a no brainer, but this is key to becoming a master single-tasker. How often are we distracted by our smartphones? An email notification? An extra tab you just have to open on your browser? It’s so easy to give in to the rings and dings that our electronic devices make… causing us to lose focus.
Rather than letting those things be in control of your life, take the control back and silence them or put them away for a period of time. You might think that this isn’t distracting you, but try and go one hour without your phone… you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done.
We’d hate to see you stop mid-workout to see why your phone was buzzing. We’d hate it even more if you put off your workout because you have to clean your house, carpool your kids, or watch your favorite TV show. Or worst yet, to not even start a workout because your to-do list is too long and overwhelming. (Remember? We talked about this. Working out should be near the top of that list!).
Single-tasking is key when it comes to getting your workout started. You have to commit to making a workout happen. Set aside a specific time in your day that is only for exercise and when that time comes, stop everything else and get to work!
Eliminating distractions while eating is a huge factor in helping weight loss. Have you ever sat on the sofa watching TV with a bag of chips in your hand?
Even if you told yourself you were just going to eat a small serving, I’m guessing you walked away feeling guilty over how many chips you actually ate. Whether you’re in front of the TV, working on the computer, or nibbling on the food your kids left on their plates as you do the dishes, being distracted while you eat almost always ends in disaster.
You have to be mindful of what you put in your mouth and make sure it’s worth it to you and that it helps you accomplish your goals. It’s so easy to mindlessly eat while you work on something else, that it just doesn’t make sense to have food around any distractions.
The best approach is to have a designated spot where you choose to eat. That way eating becomes a purposeful decision. You have to get to where you need to be which means that you will remove yourself from all the distractions that cause you to mindlessly eat.
The bottom line: MULTITASKING DOESN’T WORK!
It doesn’t work at your job. It doesn’t work at your home, and it definitely doesn’t work for your weight loss goals. The time to single-task is now. Go ahead and give it a try for one week. Challenge yourself to put a single-tasking focus on the 3 w’s of food: what, where and when you eat. Make that your top priority this week and when it’s time to eat, make sure you single-task your way to success.
I can guarantee that when your week is up, you will see a difference in your focus and you will be on the right road to achieving mental success. And the odds are pretty good that you won’t ever go back to multitasking your diet again.
If you don’t know where to start, try starting with a plan: