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Single-tasking is key to greater productivity
Single-tasking is key to greater productivity

Jul 26 2022

Single-tasking is key to greater productivity

According to scientific research, the human brain is not made for multi-tasking. Instead, single-tasking may be the key to be more productive as a financial advisor professionally and personally.

By Tanichka Achan

Topics covered

In a world of constant text messages, tweets, and app notifications, our attention is constantly being directed or re-directed in a matter of seconds. As such, multitasking seems like a very important skill to master as we try to execute and complete everyday tasks. People also tend to value multi-tasking, viewing it as a sign of competence. However, is the art of multitasking as efficient as we think it is? 

Single-tasking is key to greater productivity

Multitasking refers to the ability to manage multiple responsibilities at once by focusing on one task while keeping track of others. In the workplace, this involves switching back and forth between tasks and performing them rapidly one right after the other.  

A study by neuroscientists showed that when people focus on two tasks simultaneously, each side of the brain takes on a different task, suggesting a two-task limit on what the human brain can handle. Taking on more tasks increases the likelihood of errors, thus making us less efficient than what we want to be.  

Two-year MDRT member from Malaysia Michael Ong shares, “For a financial advisor, multitasking is a killer — it doesn’t allow you to focus deeply on one thing at a time. To me, multitaskers are not the epitome of their efficiency. Single-mindedness is.” 

Single-tasking for increased focus and productivity 

The idea behind single-mindedness or single-tasking is that you focus on one thing at a time. This allows you to be fully present and immersed in the task at hand. Some people refer to it as being “in the zone” or in a state of flow.  

Ong says, “For example, I’m in front of my laptop now speaking to a customer via Zoom. I am not getting distracted by messages, phone calls, app notifications. If you’re getting distracted, your clients can see this and know you are not fully paying attention to them and no longer feel prioritized. To me being productive or effective can be achieved with single-tasking.” 

When he joined the profession, Ong was juggling the different responsibilities of a financial advisor. “I would have to go for meetings with clients, develop proposals, find solutions to their financial problems, and answer phone calls at night if they had questions about their policies. As I started to grow further, I decided to start setting professional boundaries with my clients and colleagues to work more effectively. I would let them know Mondays to Fridays are for my clients. My weekends are reserved for my family members. I’m sure you have a family and can understand this. If you have an urgent case, I will definitely answer but if it is not, is it okay if I answer on Monday?” 

As a financial advisor, clients expect replies within minutes and we are conditioned to respond almost immediately. Ong’s advice to new financial advisors is to start setting and communicating boundaries at the very beginning. Once clients and colleagues know when is a good time to reach you, you should have more time to concentrate on tasks one at a time instead of dealing with multiple requests simultaneously.   

Other helpful tips for single-tasking work 

Apart from establishing boundaries, here are some tips to help with becoming more focused on completing one task at a time.  

Schedule your time accordingly – According to Ong, the life of a financial advisor allows you the flexibility to plan your day well but, unfortunately, many of his peers don’t set an agenda for the day. Thus, causing them to be less productive as they are not sure how to utilize their time effectively. Using a timetable or task schedule will help allocate the right amount of time to spend on specific activities. Additionally, setting time constraints for completing tasks helps you become more motivated in working toward completing your tasks.  

Use technology to help automate work –  Ong shares that some of his peers during the pandemic took the opportunity to digitalize all their client documentation to save time retrieval time and for easier tracking. If you find yourself spending more time on mundane tasks like data entry or sending newsletter emails or festive greetings, you can also consider automation tools to help take repetitive work off your plate. This way you will have more time to focus on work that really matters.  

Go offline – Some of the biggest distractions come from emails, Zoom notifications, messaging apps and social media. If you want no disruptions, take yourself offline until you’ve accomplished the task at hand. Alternatively, you can use the “Do Not Disturb” function in your device settings.  

The power of single-tasking can help you develop a healthier work-life balance. It is proven that focusing on one task at a time results in higher productivity, lowers stress levels, and makes you happier in the long run.  

Contact: MDRTeditorial@teamlewis.com