I’ve always been the sort of person who you could easily tell the state of my life by looking at my room and my car. In my college days, I was seldom stressed out or disorganized. In fact, I believed my organization skills were one of my top strengths. Then, when I graduated and began my professional career I noticed a change. Little by little, I became disorganized. I realized that disorganization became a new habit for me and I didn’t like it. Then I read an article on Inc.com that brought to light several revelations. The problem was that I had learned how to multi-task. Multitasking is praised as a strength and a buzz word that I’ve often seen in many job descriptions. I’ve even used it myself in many a cover letter and praised multitasking as a good thing. However, contrary to popular belief multitasking is more detrimental to us than it is helpful.
When we multitask, we overload our brains with information, constantly interrupting the flow of what’s going on. Overtime this process impairs our brains from functioning at its best. Of course we wish we could do more but truly the best way to accomplish more is by simplifying the process – focusing on one thing at a time. My ability to multi-task led me to developing a habit of going from one task to another, with my attention stretched too far and in the end leaving many tasks incomplete. I would end up feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and even have my self-esteem lowered because my lack of progress made me feel incompetent.
By learning to multi-task, I had also re-wired my brain to function in a different way. As a result, I decided to make the choice to do less and regain my focus by monotasking, also known as single-tasking, which is the practice of dedicating oneself to a given task and minimizing potential interruptions until the task is completed or a significant period of time has elapsed.
Below are a few of the things that I began to incorporate in order to help me become more of a mono-tasker overtime. I eventually began to feel better mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and I also began to complete more tasks and make real progress on my goals.
1. Before I start any task, I schedule my time and try my best to stick to it. I prefer using a physical agenda book to do so. Just find what works for you and stick to it! I schedule time to check my email and text messages, since those are often some of the distractions that get me off task. I also schedule some time to take breaks, get some snacks or to do whatever else commonly interrupts my workflow.
2. Disabling my phone. I realized that one of my biggest distractions came from me checking my phone every 10 minutes, to respond to text messages, check my email, watch YouTube, check my social media handles, etc. An app that’s helped me do that is Cold Cold Turkey. What it does is temporarily disable all functions on your phone for as long as you set the timer. You literally cannot use your phone once you’ve set the timer. You can also use it on your desktop.
3. Learning how to only have one tab open at a time. I knew that when I had a ton of tabs opened it showed how unfocused I had become, plus there was no way that I was actually processing all of that information. Instead, I’ve cut it down to 3 tabs open at once.
4. I’ve learned how to be okay with not being able to do it all.
5. Learning the difference between urgent and important tasks using the Eisenhower matrix. Urgent for me is a task that requires my immediate attention and failure to do so immediately would result in some major consequences, while an important task is a task that needs to get done but can wait. I also learned that everything is not urgent.
6. Not over scheduling my time. I oftentimes underestimated how long it would take to complete a single task and would end up having a to-do list of 20+ tasks – not realistic! Now, I start off by scheduling time to do 3 manageable tasks. If I finish all of them and find that I have time to do more, I add another task.
7. Sticking to the task for at least 15 minutes. Using timer apps, such as Forest or PomoDone may be helpful in doing this. I found that once I was 15 minutes deep into my work, the urge to stop working would subside or go away entirely.
Any thoughts on multi-tasking vs. mono-tasking? Let us know in the comments section below!