Multitasking has become the norm for many busy women. Juggling a career, parenting, exercise, and community involvement makes it feel like doing multiple things at once is the only way to get it all done.
However, research suggests that multitasking may not be as efficient as we once thought. Monotasking—focusing on one task at a time—may be a far more effective approach to managing our daily lives. Learn about the decline of multitasking and why monotasking is better.
Multitasking Is Not What It Seems
Multitasking is a misnomer. We can’t really do several things at once. Instead, we’re rapidly switching between tasks, which can take a toll on our productivity and focus.
According to experts, our brains cannot effectively handle multiple tasks at once. Constantly switching gears in our brains is known as the “cognitive switching penalty,” it hampers the ability to concentrate and perform tasks efficiently.
The Monotasking Advantage
Focusing on one task at a time allows us to complete tasks more quickly. You waste time that you could use to complete a high-priority task when you constantly switch attention from one task to another.
Plus, the constant mental juggling of multitasking can lead to increased stress levels. Monotasking helps lower stress levels and increase overall mental well-being.
How To Shift to Monotasking
Making the transition from multitasking to monotasking may seem difficult at first, but here are some helpful tips to get started:
Prioritize: Break down your day into a list of tasks and sort them by priority. Doing so will help ensure you focus on the most important tasks first and complete them more efficiently. Experts suggest choosing just two priority tasks a day.
Minimize distractions: Create a focused workspace by eliminating any unnecessary distractions. Turn off your phone’s notifications, and close unrelated browser tabs.
Try the Pomodoro Technique: Software expert and management consultant Francesco Cirillo developed the Pomodoro technique when he was a university student: he used a tomato-shaped timer to govern his studying schedule (pomodoro means tomato in Italian).
Choose a timer (you can use your stove’s timer, your phone’s timer, or a classic stand-alone kitchen timer) and set it for 25 minutes, during which you work on one task. Then, take a short break. After four rounds of work like this, take a longer break. Then, you can move on to your next priority and repeat the next four cycles of focused work. This technique can help train your brain to focus on one task at a time.
Preparing Your Brain to Focus
Reducing stress is crucial for improving your brain’s ability to focus. Adopting healthy habits can help. Exercise has been proven to lower stress levels and improve mental focus. Some forms of exercise offer opportunities to practice focusing. For example, cycling requires focus for safety, and yoga requires focused attention on breathing and holding a pose. Meditation and reading for pleasure can also help reduce stress and improve cognitive function.
The decline of multitasking and the rise of monotasking is a much-needed shift in how we approach our daily lives. By understanding the limitations of multitasking and embracing monotasking techniques, it’s possible to become more productive and efficient and to enjoy a greater sense of well-being.