MONOTASK, NOT MULTITASK
It’s a myth that multitasking gets more done in a shorter time. What’s proven is that the quality of your work suffers, and you literally are not stopping to smell the roses. Here’s why monotasking is the way to go. If I’m watching Netflix, I’m probably having dinner; and I always seem to have at least 15 tabs open when browsing. It’s as if I’m afraid to do one thing at a time. The reason: Juggling multiple things makes me feel like I’m saving time.
But research – including a National University of Singapore study that found multitasking may impair the forming of long-term memories – indicates that multitasking lowers efficiency. Our brains are better at focusing on one task at a time; multitasking slows us down and results in memory loss.
That’s at least true where the tasks require the same kind of cognitive resources. Bad: e-mailing a client and talking to a colleague at the same time. Very bad: Whatsapping while driving. Okay: listening to music while working out. You see what I’m getting at. So instead, I’ve decided to singletask in the office: I break down big tasks and keep my to-do list concise. It sort of works; I notice progress, and that motivates me to keep going.
However, being bombarded by e-mail messages all day is challenging. I want to be on top of things by responding to everyone immediately, but it’s a productivity killer. As Chris Bailey mentions in his book Hyperfocus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction, becoming more productive isn’t about time management; it’s about attention management.
I limit checking e-mails to the start and end of day. On my iPhone, I restrict notifications using the Downtime function. Sure enough, it’s become easier to be engrossed in a task, and sticking to a clear structure has made me work more productively.
Next, I strive to dwindle down to only two browser tabs at a time. If you leave a tab open and neglected for more than five minutes, chances are it’s not that important. I’ll admit, change is a work in progress, and Rome wasn’t built yada yada. But I actually finish reading (and remembering) more articles now and, like my desktop, my mind feels less cluttered.