You’ve heard of multitasking, let us introduce you to monotasking…
It’s been established that multitasking actually makes us less productive (read more HERE), and can have negative long term effects on our brains and bodies. Instead, we should all get familiar with the concept of monotasking. Monotasking is the practice of dedicating oneself to one given task and minimizing potential interruptions until that task is completed, or a significant period of time has elapsed.
The goal of monotasking is to achieve “deep work” – the ability to focus on a demanding task that requires higher levels of cognitive ability and awareness – without distractions, for an extended period of time. To help determine your current ability to achieve “deep work”, take our Focus Quiz here.
While it’s been proven that multitasking is not efficient, and can lead to long-term cognitive issues (you can read more about that HERE), monotasking actually does the opposite. Not only does monotasking increase performance quality and efficiency, but it can also strengthen neural pathways, leading to an increased attention span and even a higher IQ. While life’s daily demands won’t always allow for by-the-book monotasking, it’s important to develop a monotasking mindset in environments we can more readily control and where it will likely offer the most value, like work and personal self-care.
How To Get Into The Monotasking Mindset:
Set aside time for deep work
Each day set aside 2 to 4 hours where you can focus on a single project without interruption (no phones, email, conversations, social media). This kind of singular focus will engage both sides of your brain and allow you to achieve the kind of breakthroughs that make the biggest impact on the project you are working on. Start by blocking off your calendar, and see how far you get.
Figure out your peak performance time
Everyone has a specific period of the day where they’re most productive – when you are sharpest, least distracted and most likely to have breakthrough moments. Identify this time of day, and set it aside as your dedicated time to do “deep work”.
Narrow your focus by optimizing for impact
When prioritizing your workload, answer these two questions first:
What can I do today that will bring me a sense of purpose?
What are the two most important things I can do today that would have the greatest impact?
Schedule “negative time” (free time)
Block out time (1-2 hours per day) for resting, watching TV, meditating, or going on a walk.
Progress Over Perfection
But, what do you do when you’re attempting to monotask and a distraction (inevitably) arises? Acknowledge the distraction, and return to the task at hand. According to Thatcher Wine, author of The Twelve Monotasks: Do One Thing At A Time To Do Everything Better, the process of “gently steering your attention back to your point of focus, without judgment” will be familiar to people with experience of meditation. By recognizing distractions without giving into them, you enable your mind to shift more easily back into whatever it is you’re trying to monotask.
In a world where interruptions and constant stimuli are flying at us from all directions, it can be hard to notice ourselves succumbing to a permanent state of distraction. But while monotasking can definitely feel uncomfortable at first, implementing this practice is vital to improving our focus, and our brains and bodies will thank us for it in the long run.
Read more of our fave focus hacks HERE, learn about why multitasking doesn’t work HERE, and take our Focus Quiz HERE.
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