I remember the days when every job posting I searched listed ‘multi-tasking’ as a required skill. It was the topic of conversation during the interview process.
Are the days of multitasking over?
Multi-tasking means trying to perform two or more tasks concurrently, which leads to repeatedly switching between tasks. On the surface it seems like a great way to get a lot done at once.
Research is now showing that the brain works most efficiently when it can focus on a single task for a longer period of time. When you switch tasks, it causes delays in your thought process which add up to a loss of focus, resulting in attention fatigue. This research also suggests that productivity actually wanes with multi-tasking, as much as 40%! Several studies have shown that multitaskers experience challenges like problems focusing on complicated tasks, memory impairment, difficulty learning and increased stress levels.
Enter mono-tasking, or single-tasking. Exactly as it sounds, it focuses on a given task rather than dividing attention between multiple ones. Focusing on a specific task before proceeding to another can improve our productivity and communication.
When you boil it down, mono-tasking relies on mindfulness. It’s being present in any situation — whether you’re completing an important work project, attending a meeting or out to dinner with friends..
Think about the last time you tried to have a conversation with someone who kept checking their phone and getting distracted. How did you feel? Annoyed? Not heard? Unimportant? Needing to constantly repeat yourself?
Mastering monotasking requires two things: managing your time and blocking distractions. I would add that it also requires a commitment to be consistent. Recovering multitaskers don’t just flip a switch and automatically become single-focused. As with most things, it’s about reversing habits and creating new patterns that become new habits.
Tips to Mono-tasking:
- Avoid looking at your phone upon waking
- Create a list of daily priorities and time block them in your calendar
- Do important things first in the morning
- Be prepared to say no
- Silence your phone or use an app that blocks distractions
- Simply start to become aware of your multitasking habits
- What is one thing you can change in the moment you catch yourself?