You have 256 unread emails in your inbox, 45 tabs open on your browser, your meeting is starting in 10 minutes, and you’re trying to address everything and getting nowhere fast. Sound familiar?
We’re all guilty of multitasking, and while we think we’re saving time and making progress, we’re actually doing the complete opposite. Research is now showing that monotasking is truly more effective than multitasking on so many levels. We chatted to an expert to find out why, and what we can do to change our multitasking ways...
“Up until now, we have been priding ourselves on how many balls we can juggle in the air like a badge of honour. The more balls in the air, the more accomplished we feel,” - Author and wellness entrepreneur, Lyndall Mitchell.
“Thank goodness we can all take a sigh of relief and embrace monotasking knowing that it is actually proven not only to be a more efficient and effective way to work. It is actually contributed to lowering stress and increasing enjoyment in life.”
The evidence shows that when we multitask, we become more distracted. In a FastCompany interview, Gloria Marks (Professor in the Department of Informatics at the University of California) found “about 82 per cent of all interrupted work is resumed on the same day. But here’s the bad news — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task. “That’s an ineffective way to spend our precious time and if that wasn’t enough to sway you, Gloria and her team also found “there is significantly more stress”.
Multitasking can cause extra stress: Our brain is designed to concentrate on one task at a time, when you switch from one task to another your brain takes more time to do the tasks. This, in turn, causes stress as the same tasks will now take more time to complete it. The result, you won’t be productive getting any task completed.
Multitasking can affect your memory: Memory loss and absentmindedness are very common among those who multitask regularly. Our brain isn’t designed to handle too many tasks at the same time. Plus when you juggle between two different activities, you’re not paying the attention needed to any one of them. Short term memory loss is a regular phenomenon but beware: multitasking can even damage your permanent memory.
Multitasking can hinder creativity: When you multitask your attention switches from one problem to another so your concentration is divided. You may be able to work on many tasks at one time, but you will really struggle if something requires some serious problem-solving. This is because your brain becomes so habituated to shifting tasks that it no longer is able to concentrate on one thing with full concentration.
“The other fascinating part about multi-tasking is we often don’t get to feel success and our emotional centre never gets to register that feeling of reward, as we don’t really complete tasks as well as we’d like,” says Mitchell. “Monotasking is going to be a sure-fire pathway to take you on your way and access greater feelings of happiness and productivity, one path at a time.”
1. Only check emails at pre-selected times each day.
2. Create deep focus time, where you spend 50 minutes of an hour concentrating on completing one specific task (no phone or email interruptions for this period), use the final 10 minutes to recalibrate, stand up and refresh your mind by taking a short walk to the kitchen for a glass of water or a walk around the office.
3. Schedule meetings in groups if you have multiples in one day.
“It’s time to resist the urge to multitask, learn to prioritise your to-do list and let go of distractions so you can focus on what is essential. In the end, you will be more productive and less stressed.”