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By Denise Le

One-at-a-time production is a key component in Lean process improvement that helps organizations realize business process improvement opportunities to drive operational improvement. It can also be applied to personal productivity. One-at-a-time production allows us to accomplish more in our work day and complements the way our brains naturally function, and yet many people (including some management consultants) continue to multitask with the illusion of productivity rather than complete their work one task at a time.

Our brains are natural sequential processors that are designed to pay attention to one activity at a time. Working on tasks one at a time allows you to optimize your concentration, stay more organized and complete tasks more efficiently. In contrast, multitasking can create a sense of feeling busy without actually completing any tasks. When you try to multitask, the constant switching from task to task reduces your productivity since your brain is exhausting its energy across many activities. According to a study conducted by the University of California Irvine, it can take as long as 25 minutes to regain your focus on a given task after an interruption. This lag in regaining focus can result in inefficiencies in completing tasks, such as lost time from processes taking longer and an increased chance of errors. If our brain naturally focuses on concepts one at a time, why shouldn’t we work that way as well?

Interruptions are inevitable in the workplace but staying disciplined in your own work habits will enable you to make the most out of your day. You can easily implement one-at-a-time production into your work routine and see immediate results. Here are some simple organizational improvement tips that you can implement into your work day to boost your personal productivity through one-at-a-time production:

  1. Create daily goals: Starting each day knowing what you need to accomplish will provide you with direction and motivation to complete tasks.
  1. Prioritize your tasks: Identifying your top three priorities and blocking out time in the morning to get them accomplished will help you build up momentum throughout your work day.
  1. Set times to check your email: Scheduling set times to check your email will decrease interruptions by removing the temptation to frequently check it throughout the day.
  1. Set time limits for each task: Setting time estimates for each task will help you envision how much you can achieve in a day.
  1. Track your time on tasks: Knowing how much time you spend on each task will help you evaluate your productivity and develop your time management skills. It’s like your own personal key performance indicator!
  1. Review your deliverables at the end of each day: Reviewing what you were able to accomplish will keep you accountable.

One-at-a-time production will help you feel more in control of your tasks while motivating you to set and achieve goals. You will find that completing one task from start to finish before proceeding to another task will enable you to work more efficiently and accomplish more in your work day.

Share your experience with one-at-a-time production and how it has improved your personal productivity by leaving a comment below.