Singletasking – Devora Zack (Book Summary)

In the modern world, we willy-nilly have to perform several tasks simultaneously.

Here are just a few things from this does not become smaller.

In addition, we are constantly stressed, tired quickly and rarely get job satisfaction. Devora Zack, a consultant, and expert in the field of neuro-linguistic programming offers a fundamentally different approach.

On the pages of her book, she convincingly argues that any attempt to do several things at once in any situation is doomed to failure.

This is the most ineffective method of action that you can choose. It’s better to focus on one thing. According to the author, performing tasks sequentially, a person lives and works, achieving greater results.

However, for many, it will not be easy to go straight to multitasking.

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Chasing Two Hares …

Here is a typical multitasking scenario.

You are talking on the phone with an important customer.

Leaning back in your chair, you look at the computer screen, on which a message suddenly pops up – your colleagues are going to lunch at the nearest Thai restaurant and are wondering if they can order something for you.

You immediately write the answer. While you are planning your dinner and dreaming about Thai cuisine, the client continues to tell you something and, finally, distracts you from culinary fantasies with the question:

“Do you agree with this strategy?”

What strategy?

You have no idea what he means. Your thoughts were completely different.

“By devoting yourself entirely to one single task, one topic at any one time, you will achieve more and, moreover, you can enjoy deeper and stronger personal relationships.”

And here is another scenario.

You faced a very serious and extremely urgent problem.

To solve it, you need to consult with your boss.

You make an appointment with him.

However, during the conversation, while you are in detail, trying not to miss anything, explaining to him the essence of your difficulties, he is constantly distracted.

He puts things in order on the table, sends messages, collects reports and folders for the upcoming meeting, and does a lot more work, letting you know that your problem – like you yourself – does not really matter to him.

At the end of this “conversation”, the chef informs you that you can go to him at any time to discuss how things are going. But you have no desire to do this.

Proven: Multitasking is Ineffective

Multitasking is deeply rooted in modern culture.

Today, everyone around is extremely busy.

To cope with our countless responsibilities, we are trying not only to do many things at the same time but also to respond to numerous distracting factors, which include the flow of information from electronic media and social networks. And still, the to-do list is not getting shorter.

On the contrary, it grows before our eyes. In addition, no one, as a rule, receives satisfaction from the work performed.

“Multitasking is the road to nowhere. Instead of relaxing the load, it only inflates problems. Our brains are unable to cope with more than one task at a time. ”

One common myth is that multitasking is a recipe for success.

In fact, it is a source of errors, sometimes very serious and even fatal. An example is sending SMS messages while driving. This attempt to do several things at once causes terrible accidents.

In the United States alone, drivers distracted in this way from the roadkill tens of thousands of people each year and cause damage worth more than $ 870 billion.

“Focusing on communication with a person for a few minutes is much more useful than conducting an hour-long“ consultation ”while doing a few more tasks.”

Of course, mistakes made due to multitasking usually do not lead to such tragic consequences, but they can turn out to be very discouraging.

Perhaps you have had occasion to discuss an important project with a colleague without breaking away from reading a newspaper – and subsequently, discover that you have inadvertently agreed to complete the work in completely unrealistic terms.

Or talk with your spouse about the upcoming family celebration, continuing to watch a football television channel, and then plan your business trip for your father-in-law’s birthday.

What is Worse Than “Monkey Mind”

The term “multitasking” originally refers to computers.

Today it means “a person’s performance of more than one task at a certain point in time”.

Alas, studies by neurobiologists and other specialists show that multitasking is ineffective. However, most do not take this into account. There are people who do not even imagine how you can live differently.

Moreover, many are ready to swear that they manage to do several things at once.

“Failure to concentrate on a person during an acquaintance or conversation is evidence of the indiscipline of the cerebellum.”

According to science, this is impossible.

Dr. Earl Miller from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology claims: a person is not able to focus on two topics at once, because they are mutually suppressed. When solving any complex problem, the prefrontal cortex is involved.

When we try to perform two complex tasks simultaneously, several competing streams of information arise. As a result, they overwhelm each other, and we are able to give each of them only superficial attention.

Multitasking prevents data from being loaded into short-term memory. At a certain point, we no longer have enough data to complete one of the things we have begun. We have to make certain mental efforts to get them. In other words, multitasking overloads the prefrontal cortex, and our brain is in a stupor. And instead of reducing the amount of time spent, we increase it.

“Multitasking reduces our ability to concentrate. We are all gradually losing the ability to hold attention for any length of time. ”

The process, which many mistakenly call multitasking, is actually a switch between tasks. In fact, this is not even a switch, but an extremely ineffective throwing back and forth.

Lack of effectiveness is not the only drawback of this approach. Attempts to cope with several things at the same time badly affect the brain itself, they reduce its volume.

This is due to the constant overload of the prefrontal cortex. A decrease in brain volume, in turn, leads to cognitive difficulties, a decrease in the ability to think clearly and reason.

“Regardless of the reasons for this behavior, trying to do several things at once makes us arrogant, disrespectful, disorganized, and disinterested.”

In addition, multitasking interferes with adequately resolving problems that have arisen, enhances mood swings, and prevents control of sudden gusts.

Buddhists, speaking of a fussy, uncontrolled consciousness, call it “monkey mind.” This is how our consciousness becomes when we try to cope with several tasks at the same time.

For All People, the Brain Works the Same Way.

All this does not apply to those situations when we are trying to solve a complex problem and at the same time, we are engaged in everyday activities such as washing dishes, listening to music, easy repairs or cooking.

Such cases belong to the category of automatic low-level activity and practically do not require conscious attention. Engaged in such activities, we are quite capable of simultaneously solving tasks that require serious mental effort – unless, of course, we are ready for this physically or organizationally.

But here you should be careful. For example, if someone writes SMS messages on the go, this can have very unpleasant consequences: a person can get into a pothole with his foot, fall into a ditch or get under a car.

“Studying the situation from the inside, alas, is too easily replaced by attention to external details.”

Remember the last time you counted change or any other small items. At some point, you went astray – and were forced to start all over again.

Perhaps because someone distracted you or your thoughts switched to something else. One way or another, you lost concentration, and your actions immediately became unproductive. This is exactly what happens when we switch between different tasks.

A study conducted by scientists from Harvard University proved that the most productive workers are rarely distracted during the day, while the least productive ones switch their attention up to 500 times a day.

This is the worst manifestation of multitasking. Moreover, it can be called the embodiment of a scattered, unsystematic lifestyle.

“An all-pervasive multimedia environment is just the most recent excuse for our desire to avoid looking inside ourselves.”

Some experts mistakenly believe that young people who grew up in the era of high technology and from childhood got used to all kinds of gadgets are quite capable of multitasking.

Alas, the brain of such young people is no different from the brain of the older generation; it is bound by the same limitations. Not a single person, neither old nor young, is capable of doing several things at once. Our mind is simply not adapted to this. Multitasking is quite within the power of a powerful computer, but not a person.

What is “Single Task”

One way or another, but modern life constantly requires us to perform many different things.

It literally pushes us to multitask. How to solve this problem? You can increase your productivity only by following the principles of single-tasking, doing one thing at a time.

“One thing at a time – and you will do more” – this is how you can briefly formulate the idea of single-tasking. True, in order to successfully bring this strategy to life, you will have to restructure your mindset, relationships with people, and even the environment. However, the result will be maximum concentration and productivity – that is, full involvement in solving a specific problem.

“The main problem is not technology, but how you use it.”

Singletasking is not at all some kind of innovation.

This principle was known even to our ancient ancestors, hunters, and gatherers. The life of themselves and their families depended on how strictly they followed him. By and large, humanity has followed this principle throughout its history. Just because this principle works. A single-tasking approach requires a complete immersion in the implementation of the current business, then the next and so on.

This does not mean that you must first completely complete one job and only then move on to the next. No, you just need not to be distracted from the current issue. Using the strategy of “immersion in the task”, you can achieve outstanding results in any business.

Restoring Interpersonal Relationships

Multitasking not only helps you work more productively.

It helps to restore those ties with others that are constantly being broken due to the widespread habit of being distracted during communication. Instead of focusing on our interlocutor, we usually do not take our eyes off the smartphone, interrupt the conversation to answer the call, and the like.

Those who follow the principle of single-tasking give all their attention to the interlocutor. They control the environment, their plans and thought processes. The life of such people is controlled by themselves, and not by their gadgets.

“Perhaps you think that using the phone while driving is quite safe. However, this nearly quadruples your risk of an accident ”(Jake Nelson, Director of Transportation Security, American Automobile Association).

To start interacting with others in this way, you need to learn how to quickly decide whether to respond to each of the many stimuli, including the signals of electronic devices.

You need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • “Have I not been enslaved to my own gadgets?”;
  • “Do they prevent me from concentrating – and therefore, following the principles of single-tasking?”

“If at the beginning of each working day you spend three to five minutes compiling a list of upcoming affairs today, this can completely change your whole day: instead of being limp in the flow of events, you will direct it.”

However, before taking control of your own smartphone, you need to learn how to control your mind. Given the many distractions that accompany modern life, this idea may seem difficult to implement. Therefore, you need to start small, and then gradually move on.

“Single-tasking means living here and now, completely immersing yourself in that one thing that you are currently busy with.”

To get started, take time for self-observation. Devote it to simple, clear, and helpful reflection. Keep a diary where you will regularly enter their results. This will help you stay focused and teach how to organize thoughts. Consider this a “mindfulness workshop.”

Get rid of the habits associated with the “monkey mind” – indispensable companions of multitasking. Instead, enjoy all the benefits of single-tasking, which include energy and the joy of being, a positive outlook on the world and a good sense of humor, as well as a feeling of complete satisfaction from the work done.

By the way, among other things, multitasking eliminates boredom, reduces stress, self-doubt, a feeling of depression, distraction.

How to Approach Multitasking

Here are a few tips to help you understand what multitasking is, to focus on it and use it in practice:

  • Singletasking should become a habit. To take full advantage of its benefits, learn to cope with the flow of unplanned visitors, refuse immediate replies to messages on social networks, take the time to plan for the day, and clearly stick to the topic during meetings and conversations.
  • A singletasking approach requires focus, and this requires energy. Replenish its reserves by taking short breaks to relax during the working day.
  • Uninvited, spontaneous thoughts can interfere with concentration. If such a thought occurred to you, send it to your mental “parking lot” – write down to return to it later.
  • When working on an important project, get out of the Internet so you don’t get distracted by emails and messages. Turn off the sound in electronic devices, as well as everything that rings, buzzes, buzzes, beeps.
  • You cannot follow the principles of single-tasking if you are constantly distracted. Explain to others what time they can count on your attention, wean them to bother you at any time.
  • When you need to focus, tell your colleagues that you are not there for anyone at this time. Close the door and hang a sign on it informing you that you are busy with urgent work.
  • An effective methodology for you will be “task grouping” – combining similar tasks into a single group. Allocate two intervals of 30 minutes each during the working day, during which you will perform only routine, simple, and related duties.
  • During the conversation, focus on the subject of the conversation, show respectful attention to the interlocutor. Become an active listener. And completely forget for this time about social networks.
  • Take advantage of the idea that Joseph Juran suggested in one of his books: prioritize, focus on a few, but important, instead of spraying it on numerous trifles.
  • Stop rushing around. Do not hurry. If you use the principles of single-tasking wisely, you have enough time for everything.


  • Scientists have proven that multitasking is ineffective. Our brain is able to focus on only one complex task at a time.
  • When we think that we are practicing multitasking, in fact, we just switch between different things.
  • When switching between tasks, each task takes longer than required.
  • Multitasking impedes the cognitive process. It makes us less productive and provokes a lot of mistakes.
  • Errors resulting from the simultaneous execution of several tasks can be fatal.
  • To achieve serious results, you need to follow the principle of single-tasking – at one point in time to do only one thing.
  • Humanity has practiced a single-tasking approach since ancient times. But today, in the age of electronic devices, we have to learn it again.
  • The desire to do only one thing at a time has a positive effect on our mental and emotional state.
  • With single-tasking, we ourselves plan the sequence of tasks.
  • Multitasking helps us build relationships with others.

 Why You Should Read “Singletasking”

  • To cope with a lot of things without harm to health
  • To learn to deal with many things
  • To become way more productive

This book is available as:

AudiobookeBook | Print

Quick intro and benefits from the book


Why You Should Read Singletasking?

  • To cope with a lot of things without harm to health
  • To learn to deal with many things
  • To become way more productive
3D Book Cover 239

Singletasking by Devora Zack

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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The Book in One Paragraph

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How The Book Changed Me

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Singletasking Summary + Key Ideas

As you’ve already learned from the points above, Singletasking is a kind of book that certainly has something to offer even to the most educated and sophisticated reader.

Down below, I’ve listed the most important ideas, concepts, and insights from the book that I hope you will find useful and helpful.

Let’s get started with the first key idea:

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Putting It All Together


Going Beyond the Summary

You wouldn’t expect me to leave you with the book summary alone, would you?

There are some extra materials I would like to share with you.

They might make a great addition to the knowledge you gained from the summary above.

So if you are up to going down the rabbit hole, I suggest you the following resources.

Recommended Reading

If you like Singletasking, you may also enjoy the following books:

  • book 1
  • book 2
  • book 3

Purchase the Original Book

There is always much more to discover from the full-text books.

Most of the time, you will even find some additional ideas and insights that have almost nothing to do with the book’s main topic.

So if you found my summary helpful and the book worth your time, consider buying the original version on Amazon or browse for more book summaries to discover other promising titles.

Additional References