Get More Done in Less Time by Monotasking
A friend asked me recently why I don’t like facials (and I realize that’s an odd way to start any blog, but bear with me). This friend is an extremely talented esthetician (if you don’t know Julie at The Skin Spot, you should!)- and one that I trust implicitly with my eyebrows but I just haven’t been able to fully commit to the facial routine and have skirted the obligation by just telling her that I don’t care for them. So when she asked me, I really stopped to think about the question because I DO like being pampered, but the fact of the matter is I don’t like sitting still, or being rendered incapable of GETTING STUFF DONE.
This self-reflection based confession got me thinking and (as any self-professed self-development-enthusiast should) I took to the internet in search of ways to improve this characteristic of mine. I deserve to enjoy the down time required of a facial. I deserve to put my brain on pause and just use it to have a singular conversation whilst my face is being exfoliated and moisturized. And so, I resolved to find ways to do more singular activities and feel good about it.
What Is Monotasking?
SO GLAD YOU ASKED! Ever felt like you just never get anything done? You start tasks, hop on a call, maybe cruise through the email or Slack backlog while on said call, jot down a list of action items from the call you’re on, get off the call, grab some food, start a new task while eating lunch, get distracted by something shiny (like a new productivity suite promising you the moon)… before you know it, the bus is coming around the corner and every hope you had for the day is dust. That’s multitasking in action. And I’m exhausted just typing that!
Multitasking is an incredibly popular way to do things—so popular, in fact, that many people even pride themselves on how much they can get done at once. I know this braggery intimately because I used to embody multitasking—if it was possible to multitask in my sleep, I would have! But the truth is, multitasking has been shown to result in significantly less productivity, more stress, and almost zero chance of getting into a flow state. Hi friends, there’s a better way—let me introduce my friend monotasking.
Monotasking is as simple as it sounds: focus on ONE thing at a time. It’s 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.
What Are The Benefits of Monotasking?
ALSO GLAD YOU ASKED! The fact is, we can’t create MORE time (believe me, I have researched), so we need to optimize it. When you monotask, you’re able to constantly reexamine your relationship with time and begin to understand how your cognitive abilities change with different circumstances.
In an article by Inc., Brian Adibe explains how monotasking encourages deep work, which is any task that requires higher-order cognitive ability and attention without distraction for an extended period of time. Think of it as the ability to masterfully focus on something that requires intense thinking and awareness, like creative writing, strategic planning, or solving complex problems.
Monotasking also has a lot of benefits beyond productivity—studies show it can decrease exhaustion and stress, improve your creativity and problem solving skills, and even lead to better memory retention!
In contrast, multitasking often results in a distracted frame of mind and even has the ability to permanently reduce your chances of achieving that deep level of focus when you truly need it.
How to Make Monotasking A Habit
Multitasking has become the norm in our modern workplace. We’re not just answering emails, we’re also checking Slack, responding to comments, scheduling an appointment on our calendar, and chatting with a coworker. Not only are we doing more than one thing at a time, but we’re doing all those things in quick succession—jumping from one task to the next without giving each task our full attention. In a world of constant distractions, how can you stop multitasking once and for all and make monotasking a habit?
To create a sustainable schedule where you can accomplish deep work on a regular basis, pay attention to the time of day when you have the highest levels of energy and mental clarity and dedicate that time to monotasking. An 8 AM–12 PM window might be perfect for some people, but disastrous for others. What’s important is that you find the time that works best for you and follow it every day.
It’s okay to start small: commit to 30 minutes of uninterrupted deep work everyday for a week. Once that becomes routine and you feel like you could go longer, increase your timeframe by 30 minutes each week until you’re able to complete two hours of deep work in one sitting.
The first few days will probably be difficult if you’re a chronic multitasker, so here are a few tips to make it stick:
- Make sure you’re well-rested and well-fed so sleepiness and hunger don’t derail your thinking.
- Keep your phone out of sight or turned off (or at least in airplane mode) while you work.
- Remove ALL distractions from your workspace. If it’s not crucial to the task at hand, it’s gotta go!
- Start your day with a short to-do list, prioritized from most important to least likely to help you succeed. Complete each task in full before moving onto the next thing on your list.
- Join a monotasking group like Caveday for peak accountability.
And there you have it! Monotasking has TRULY changed my life and the way I work. When I started this practice, I was lucky enough to have found Caveday, a platform that leads daily group focus sessions for recovering multitaskers around the world. It’s been shown that members get an average of 2.5 times more done than if they were working on their own, which was a statistic I could not ignore!
If you’d like to give it a try, I’ve got some amazing coupon codes to share! Head to Caveday.com and get your first month of membership for $1 with code “1STMONTHONE” or a free three-sprint cave (that’s THREE HOURS of focused work) with code “TRYACAVE21”.
Interested in learning about some of my other productivity hacks? Check out one of my recent article where I share some of my favorite creative tools and how they help me.
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