Monotasking: The New Multitasking
By Meaghan Marshall, Feb 21 2015 11:49AM
“Outstanding organisational and planning skills with ability to multitask effectively”
The above statement is from a job advertisement I read earlier today. I see variations of this statement listed on job ads or in position descriptions regularly.
This always puzzles me since we know that multitasking does not make us more productive. Multitasking is cognitively exhausting. It has been scientifically demonstrated that the brain cannot effectively switch between tasks. When our mind is forced to continuously reorient in order to process new information the quality of our work suffers and we make more mistakes.
Multitasking is out, and Monotasking is in! Employers looking for multitasking employees aren’t the only ones that haven’t caught up. Many of us multitask, and often we are not even aware we are doing it. In today’s world, we are always ‘on’ and constantly connected. We have emails, facebook, twitter, mobile phones and we are continually paying attention so we don’t miss anything.
If you want to be truly productive however you need to stop multitasking and embrace monotasking. Monotasking is working smarter and will allow you to get more done.
This is how you do it:
⇨ Schedule Email Time
Email is a huge distraction. If you have email notifications on then you should turn them off now. This will help you avoid the temptation to check your inbox as soon as you get new mail. You should instead schedule a time for checking your emails and stick to these times. Without the distraction of emails you will be better able to focus on your task. If you are tempted to check your email, stop, take a deep breath and resist the urge. Try to focus your attention back to the job at hand.
⇨ Take a Timeout
Give yourself time to recharge. You will be more productive if you step away and take a short break. Go for a walk, have a cup of tea, look out the window. Clear your head so you can focus on your task. This is especially helpful if you are feeling overwhelmed and find yourself multitasking, stop and take a timeout. It only takes a few minutes to refocus your mind.
⇨ Isolate Yourself & Remove Distractions
Try to work without any distractions for a few hours. This will mean turning off your phone, closing your email and finding a quiet room to avoid distractions. Identify your biggest distraction and multitasking habits and remove. If you’re trying to give up chocolate you are not going to leave a block sitting beside you all day, instead you will remove the temptation and the need to rely on willpower. You should approach your habit of checking emails or your phone the same way. Remove the distractions so you don’t have to fight temptation.
⇨ Block Your Time
Plan your day in blocks of time. Allocate one activity or task to a block of time and then group similar tasks together. Set specific times for returning calls, answering emails, doing research, attending meetings. By focusing on completing one task at a time you will be more productive.
⇨ Write Ideas & New Tasks Down
Don’t stop what you are doing every time you have a new idea or a new item to action arrives in your inbox. Create a list instead. Write down the thought and then return to your original task. When you have completed your current task you can then work your way through the list focusing on one task at a time.
⇨ Look After Yourself
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, tired or stressed with a big workload then you are more likely to slip back into old habits and try to multitask in order to feel like you’re making progress and getting ahead. Aim to get enough sleep, exercise and eat well. If you are well rested you will be better equipped to fight distractions and exercise will improve brain function and focus.