How many things are you doing right now? If you’re skimming through our blog at work, chances are your email’s open, as are at least one or two of your current projects. We bet your phone’s even next to you, on and ready to let you know if you need to do something else. And all of this while you’re catching up on…monotasking.
Multitasking: Not the Bragging Right it Used to Be
The thing is, we’ve become a society who sees “great at multitasking” as on par with “being a great team player” or “always on time” when it comes to the workplace. But in reality, multitasking could be negatively affecting your work.
A recent study found even brief interruptions that only last a few seconds (like checking a text or email) can double the number of errors made on a given task. And it’s gotten worse with modernity: another study found that “high media multitaskers” are more easily distracted than those who limit their media presence.
So Give Monotasking a Try Instead
Not only can monotasking help you concentrate all of your attention on the project at hand and get more accomplished correctly than multitasking, positive psychology tells us that monotasking can help make those projects feel more enjoyable.
“Attention is one way your brain decides, ‘Is this interesting? Is this worthwhile? Is this fun?” Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal told the New York Times. “Almost any experience is improved by paying full attention to it.” She even goes on to say that monotasking is a practiced form of self-awareness, that it’s an important ability in combating cognitive limitation.
Multi/monotasking and the Digital Age
Remember how we guessed you probably have your phone on you? That was less ESP and more a statistical likelihood: over 90% of adults in the US have a cell phone, and in 2015, 64% of them were smartphones (up from 35% in 2011). In other words, more than half of us in the US are multitasking at any given time.
“Our gadgets and all the things we look at on them are designed to not let us single-task,” Manoush Zomorodi of NPR’s Note to Self podcast said after a recent experiment on distractions and productivity. Think about it: when was the last time you went somewhere without your cell phone, including the bathroom?
So How Should You Start?
Obviously you can’t just abandon your phone and other gadgets at work; in fact, they’re probably a big part of your business day. So try setting “office hours” for yourself and clients, only taking calls during this time so you can spend the rest of the day on your work. Or, if your work involves a lot of time on the phone, try maintaining a set amount of time each day when you can turn off your phone and focus on other tasks. Same with your email: turn off your desktop alerts (or push notifications) and only check it at certain times during the day when you can give your replies your full attention.
When you get home, put your phone somewhere off to the side, preferably in another room. It probably needs to charge anyway, right? When doing your evening/nightly routine, focus entirely on what you’re doing in each moment.
Cooking dinner? How do the ingredients smell? How does it taste once you’re done and enjoying the meal with your family/roommates/pets/glass of wine? How much more enjoyable is your favorite show when you’re not glancing between it and another screen?
If you need to, set aside time in the evenings to answer emails or finish up any other things for the day, but turn off all your screens before going to bed. Researchers recently found the bright blue light of your phone, computer, or TV screen has more of an effect on your sleep cycle than downing a double shot of espresso before bed.
So why not give monotasking a shot?
Already mastered the tricks of the trade? Tell us how monotasking has helped your day-to-day life in the comments below!