This blog is about Mono.
No, not that kind of mono. Monotasking, or the opposite of multitasking, is not a new concept. And logically, it make so much sense. So why are we so awful at it? Like any bad habit, this may take some intervention.
We’ve actually chemically trained our brains with “random reinforcement” to crave instant gratification, quick social media highs, and praise for unrealistic productivity. We are digitally accessible, mobile-y interruptible, and instantly reachable through several immediate lines of communication. We are available for interruption every minute of the day. AND wWe are convinced that pop-up must be more exciting than what we’re currently working on. All this multitasking is taking a toll and may be much more damaging than we’re ready to admit.
This article on Quartz makes several good points about how multitasking affects our brains and energy levels while costing us valuable time due to continually refocusing. Here are the highlights:
- Multitasking is a lie. We really can’t effectively do two (or more) things at once. When we try, we’re really just switching back and forth between tasks quickly and not really giving our best to either task. This is ok if both activities are not critical, and one requires less focus. (like folding laundry while watching tv – but not responding to email while carrying on a conversation) .
- Multitasking uses up oxygenated glucose in your brain. That’s the (energy required for focused work. k) andThe result is that we are exhausteds us quicker than if we focused on one task at a time.
- It takes people on average 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get refocused after interruption.
- Fifteen15 minute breaks every couple of hours help – but not social media breaks – you need to give your mind a chance to wander during these breaks.
- You should spend at least 25 minutes working on a challenging task in order to make progress on it.
Most of us begin our day multitasking. Throw in some standard interruptions (because all of our coworkers are also multi-tasking) and it’s a miracle we can get anything done.
Changing this mindset and culture is going to take some effort. Here are some personal changes to help get you started:
- Start with a plan. What three big things do you need to get done today? Write them down, and choose separate blocks of time when you’ll focus on just that one activity.
Fill in times for checking email, making phone calls, answering questions – but not all at the same time. Begin to create for yourself some “uninterruptible” blocks of time. Close your door at work, turn off your email, send your phone to voicemail, and make the announcement that you just need an hour to work on a project. This will help your coworkers categorize their potential interruptions. If it’s a movie review or a non-urgent question, they’ll know to wait for another time.
- Edit out personal interruptions. Our eyes are trained to read everything, so if something is popping up on your screen or cluttering up your desktop – your brain is having to work harder to stay focused.
- Organize your desk and remove all old/distracting sticky notes. When pause to think our eyes wander around our space and read any copy at hand for something to process. Move post-it notes, calendars, even book titles out of sight.
- Adjust your screen settings so your eyes aren’t strained.
- Stretch first. Or take a walk. Sore or stiff muscles can be a big distraction. Plus the oxygen boost will help your brain concentrate.
- Try a stand up desk, or at least have a really good chair/desk combo.
- Hydrate and eat healthy. Don’t underestimate how your physical health affects your brain.
- Remove pop-up notifications on your desktop and phone. You really don’t need to know every time someone posts on Facebook.
- Log out of your email completely during your focussed task times. And don’t panic, you will log back in shortly.
- Turn off your phone ringer and other notification sounds. Or go a step further and turn it over on it’s face so you don’t see the screen activate, put it in a desk drawer or another room completely. Protect your focus time.
- For peak focus, you need to love what you’re doing. Even in a job that’s perfect for you, there are going to be tasks that are less fun and require more of your energy. Identify those tasks and invent creative ways make them more enjoyable.
- Evaluate. At the end of your first day of MonoTasking, take stock of how the day went. What worked and what didn’t? After a few days, you’ll begin to see patterns:
- You’ll learn which tasks suck up your time and how you can take control of those.
- You’ll begin to be more aware of your own personal circadian rhythm and maximize your most effective times.
- You’ll see that your coworkers begin to edit their own patterns of interruption.
It may take a few tries and some self-discipline, but you can be successful at training yourself, your environment and your co-workers toward MonoTasking. Once you allow for focus time and fewer interruptions, you will enjoy more productivity, greater job satisfaction, and personal well-being.