“Research shows that in addition to slowing you down, multitasking lowers your IQ.” Dr. Travis Bradberry
I used to enjoy multitasking a lot. I would be on my phone, email, work tasks, listening to some podcasts, and planning what I will be doing in the evening at the same time.
Of course, there were times when I had to monotask. I'd do it when the task at hand required my full attention and usually for bigger tasks, but it was more of an exception.
The Myth of Multitasking
A lot of people think that multitasking means literally doing a few things at the same time. In reality, it is quickly switching between a few tasks. The process looks like you are constantly interrupting one task and start doing another, then jump back to the interrupted one and the cycle goes on.
Having started exploring mindfulness, productivity, and how the human brain works, I began noticing the price I was paying for the sweet dopamine rush that is a reward from our brain for multitasking. I decided to set up experiments with myself to compare the effects of multitasking vs monotasking.
Life of a Multitasking Person
On the plus side, you have this feeling of going through with things quickly, but there's also a downside. It feels like sleepwalking and you aren't fully present in the moment. It feels like it steals the experiential part of your life. This, in its turn, can lead you to experience your every day as a Groundhog day, repeating the same habitual pattern.
Keeping things in the back of your mind while performing one of them won't allow you to fully focus on that one task.
Multitasking, if done a lot, can cause a feeling of overwhelm and lead you to productivity drops.
If you operate in a multitasking mode you have less self-control and you are easily distracted by all the possible stimuli around you.
There’s no place for creativity when you are multitasking since creativity requires one’s undivided attention and focus in order to achieve the state of creative flow.
Life of a Monotasking Person
Monotasking proves to be a more rewarding and effective approach to getting things done. While monotasking you rest 100% of your attention on one task. You aren't interrupting it by thinking about what you have to do next or grabbing your phone all the time. As a result, your focus is sharper and you don't disperse your energy and brain capacity.
Being present with a task puts you in a state of control and flow, which is very rewarding. Once you are in a productive flow state you will be feeling more energised. Whatever you are doing, you are less likely to find yourself in autopilot mode. You are feeling centered and balanced. Completion of tasks gives you a sense of deep fulfilment.
You get to experience life more fully without being fogged by the background brain activity as in multitasking. You complete the tasks much faster and with greater quality. There are more structure and clarity in your day.
The key to monotasking - put 100% of your attention on the task or activity at hand.
Attention is like a spot of light. Imagine yourself holding a torch in the dark. When you are trying to lit too many objects with it the quality of what you see isn’t very high, there might be only silhouettes.
Once you focus the light on a smaller area you are suddenly able to see more details and brighter colors of the objects. The same is true for multitasking versus monotasking. You dispersing or focusing your attention gives a different quality of the process and the outcome.
How to start monotasking?
“You can do two things at once, but you can’t focus effectively on two things at once.” Gary Keller
It's good to have a list of things or a plan for the day. This will serve as a road map for you to follow. Studies have shown that people are more organised and perform better when they have a list of things to do.
Whatever you are doing, even if it's a walk in a park, focus on it fully, pay attention to the details. This will allow you to be more present in the moment and exercise control over your attention. Remember the times when you would be so consumed by your thoughts or texting that although you were in a park or some interesting place you just missed the experience itself? All you are left with in such situations is a heavy zombielike feeling. Monotasking will bring you back to reality.
If you need to do some strategic thinking or planning, set aside a separate time for this. You will see how much more effective it will be compared to trying to do it alongside other things.
If you are taking a break or having food, focus your full attention on this activity as well. It will make your break time more relaxing. Try not to turn it into rumination time or social media scrolling time (you can set up a separate time for those). You are also likely to find your food more enjoyable when you aren’t trying to watch a YouTube video or chat with someone at the same time.
It's enough to do monotasking for just 1 week to start seeing the changes it can bring into your life.
P.S. If you would like to get some personalised advice on how to improve your productivity or have more control over your attention, I invite you to book a free Discovery Call with me.