As a training manager in 2020, you are probably beyond swamped! There’s so much to do and so little time to do it in. As demands pile up, it is tempting to divide your attention between tasks, but this disastrous response to a full plate is not the answer.

In fact, multitasking is a myth. Our brains are hardwired to do one thing at a time. What we call multitasking, neuroscientists call task-switching. We cannot do two competing tasks simultaneously; our brains are actually rapidly switching back and forth between tasks. Alarmingly, attempting to multitask reduces productivity, increases errors, lowers IQ and even shrinks the brain’s gray matter! What a mess.

Fortunately, I have a few tips to help you remain focused while upping your effectiveness. Enter singletasking — not a minute too soon!


Are there certain all-consuming, related tasks that overtake your work week, disrupting your plans to tackle big-picture projects? For many, messaging (texts, emails, IMs) falls into this category. Clustertasking is a technique that herds similar tasks into a few designated times throughout the day rather than allowing them to continually interrupt other work demands. It saves time, increases efficiency and improves relationships.

Tips for Success:

  • Clustertask when you’re most alert in up to three intervals during a typical day.
  • Do not engage in other tasks during these time frames.

Build Fences

Ignoring continuous distractions throughout the workday requires superhuman strength and is an unachievable aspiration for most of us. What’s a well-meaning professional to do? Build fences, of course. As I wrote in “Singletasking,” “The further removed we are from temptation, the better positioned we are to stick with our best intentions.”

If you’re staring at your screen while on a conference call, it’s virtually impossible to disregard a pop-up message or auditory ping. Instead, mitigate distractions prior to their occurrence. Mute chimes, disengage visual alerts and turn away from your screen when possible.

Tips for Success:

  • In the office a messy desk also creates distraction. Tidy up!
  • In the car, turn your phone off, and keep it in the back seat while you’re driving.

Dial Back Meetings

Do you lead a recurring meeting, such as a Monday morning training department check-in? Try this experiment: Put an agenda, a pen and a piece of paper at each seat. When participants enter, ask them to put everything with a screen on a side table, and tell them that the reward for trying out this experiment is that the meeting will take half the usual allocated time. Prepare to be astounded at how much more productively your time is spent when people are focused, making eye contact and fully engaged.

Tips for Success:

  • Smartphones, laptops and tablets can serve us well. Ensure you take control of them rather than the reverse.
  • When in doubt, prioritize the person or people physically present. They should receive first dibs on your attention.

Time Shift

We’re in such a hurry, and being busy is too often a badge of honor. Successful singletasking requires full attention and immersing yourself in the task at hand. However, taking breaks is equally important. Studies consistently show that we have higher overall productivity when we slate downtime throughout the day. Even a 10-minute walk outside can have a measurable positive impact.

Time shifting means designating some parts of the day to productive action and downshifting to pockets of unhurried restoration. It cultivates creativity, stronger focus and mental elasticity.

Tips for Success:

  • Feeling guilty for doing a crossword midday? Reverse it! If you must engage in guilt, direct it toward not time shifting.
  • Stop working through lunch. Taking time away from the desk makes you more efficient than steamrolling through the day.

Test-drive your favorite tip. Now that you’ve finished reading this article, return to work … after taking a little stroll without your phone.