Human Resources
Uni-tasking and learning the difference between important vs. urgent

Uni-tasking and learning the difference between important vs. urgent


Nov 2, 2016 | by Paul Rubenstein

I don’t know about you, but I often feel pulled in a million directions. I work hard to be accessible, which means my IM, Text Message, Email and Phone area all going off at one. Like a game of whack-a-mole, I’m inclined to address issues on a first-in/first-out basis. The end result is that those things that require the most time and thoughtful attentions (which are usually the most important things) are put off… delayed… I will get to them when I have time to really think.

But what if we did one thing at a time? What if we had a singular focus? Would shutting off IM during a conference call make us less productive? Or more productive? Would checking our emails only 5 times a day cause us to be unresponsive? Or would it make us more responsive? What would the clarity and presence achieved through singular focus bring us?

About 8 weeks ago I was instructed by my coach to try uni-tasking. I thought this was an unachievable unicorn. I began to shut my laptop when people were in the office. I turned off IM for periods of the day. And I began to feel a bit quieter in the mind. I listened better to the people around me… really listened. And I began to have a clearer understanding of important v. urgent. I even found uni-tasking role models like Tanya Harding. I kid you not. Here is a great article with methods of uni-tasking with a Tanya Harding reference.

This morning I woke up late, and to the realization that I’ve been slipping away from that commitment of focus. Items find their way onto my to-do list faster than they come off. That’s not good.

Focus is hard. But we can all learn to uni-task in a multi-tasking world. It requires practice, and a supportive community.

So here it is… a challenge to me, and to all of you. Try uni-tasking. Try to focus on just one-thing-at-a-time. Try to create a space of concentration for yourself, and your colleagues. Enlist a buddy in the effort. Try it for a day. (It’s hard). Take inventory at the end of the day and see if it made a difference. Even one day is a success. Then try two days, then a week and so on…

"If you chase two rabbits, both will escape." — Unknown

For more information about our Assessment & Selection solutions, visit us at or contact our assessment team directly.

Want to learn more about our Leadership & Assessment solutions?

About the Author