On the surface, the concept of multitasking sounds dynamic and kind of cool
—the word originated in the 1960s computer boom, after all, and retains its connotations of hyper-competency and over-achievement. We’re all obviously capable of handling multiple tasks at once, and we have limited time in our busy lives, so we’ve been happy to accept the idea that multitasking is an efficient, way to navigate our lives.
That’s the perception. The reality is far different: It turns out multitasking is actually counter-productive, and even it’s name is a misnomer. The human brain can’t really focus on more than one project or task at a time, so what we’re actually doing when we juggle a dozen things at once is fast task switching. And studies have shown that when we switch from one task to another, we experience a measurable drop in productivity and performance. Multitasking might make you feel like you’re getting everything done, but it’s probably also producing mediocre results.
There’s a better way: Monotasking.
Monotasking is a better fit for how our brains work
Multitasking is actually a bit of an illusion. We actually do not—and cannot—focus on more than one thing at a time. Multitasking is simply switching our focus rapidly from one task to the next. Our brains are actually wired to focus deeply on one thing at a time, and following that natural inclination results in much better outcomes for individual tasks.
Simply put, monotasking is a better approach. When we monotask, we focus on one task until it’s finished (or until we reach a natural stopping point). Only then do we move on to the next task.
The benefits of monotasking involves a few simple concepts:
- Deep work.
- Eliminating distractions. T
Control your environment
A key aspect of monotasking is purposefully shaping your work environment. Whether it’s a home office, an office-office, or the local Starbucks, your goal is to reduce distractions and interruptions so you can enter what psychologists call a “flow state,” wherein your focus is so narrow all other concerns and interests temporarily vanish.
It’s nearly impossible to enter a flow state when multitasking, but when you’re focused on a single task it can supercharge your productivity.
Things to consider when planning a monotasking day:
- Turning off devices.
- Preparing your space.
- Plan breaks.