Top Ten Ways to Monotask and Boost Productivity
We all have a tendency to believe we are the masters of multitasking. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as multitasking. Our brains are only wired to be able to pay attention to one task at a time, so what you are really doing is switching your attention back and forth very quickly. In this article we lay out the top ten ways to monotask and boost productivity.
According to studies done by the American Psychological Association, ATTEMPTING to “multitask’ results in a 50% increase in task errors and a 40% decrease in productivity. By trying to do a lot of things at once, you’re actually more likely to do them poorly, and more slowly than if you had committed your attention to one task at a time.
The net lesson is that being busy with many tasks does not equate being productive. Similarly, always being connected (to your phone, your email, your social media), does not equate to effective communication and its social benefit. In fact, this type of “multitasking” has been shown to be associated with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and deficits in basic thinking processes, such as the ability to filter out irrelevant information and ignore distraction.
All around us is a distracted world. Which of these have you noticed?
- As a pedestrian, feeling like you must pay more attention to drivers, because so many are looking down at their phones as they pass;
- Families sitting together at restaurants with everyone on their phones;
- Parents at the playground on their phones versus watching their kids;
- Being on Zoom calls where your counterparts are not listening fully, as they are typing out an email or searching something on the web.
We want to be able to let go of this reactive nature–feeling the need to check that notification or jump on every task as it pops up. You’ll be able enjoy your life and the people around you more fully, you’ll feel calmer, and ultimately be more productive when you are working on a task. You’ll be a more fully present partner, friend, parent, and coworker.
Now let’s talk about HOW to cut down on multitasking.
Top 10 Tips to Help You Monotask:
Think of multitasking as being distracted, and “monotasking” as being focused. What can you do to cut down on distractions and remain as laser focused as possible?
1. Phone Notifications
Turn your phone off or put it on silent mode, and turn off the bubble notifications. The top concern for most people is missing an emergency call from/about a loved one. Many phones these days have a “Do not Disturb” feature that only allows calls through from people you have preset. You can turn on this feature, then put your phone away in a drawer or in another room.
2. Smart Watch Notifications
Notifications pop up in the middle of tasks or important conversations, and instantly takes a minimum of 10% of your attention. Take it off or disconnect your phone/internet connection from it.
Check your emails only at certain times of day, and then close your email app and/or turn off any and all notifications. Block off these time blocks during your work day, and be honest and realistic with yourself about how much dedicated time you need to block. Don’t check your phone or email first thing in the morning–at home or at the office. This puts you into a reactive state right away, and sets you up for being easily distracted the rest of the day.
So much of email traffic is a back and forth on setting up meeting dates and times. Try using an app like Calendly or Acuity, and let people choose a time that is convenient for them (and you). If a team meeting needs to be scheduled, try to use Doodle Polls. Otherwise, in your first email out, spell out what dates and times work for you, and state that you’ll reply with a final date and time.
4. Morning Priorities
If you work from home, wake up early and knock out some of your biggest “tasks” before anyone else at home gets up. This limits the chance you’ll be distracted, and allows you to enjoy time with your family when they wake up!
5. To Do List
Prioritize the tasks you have for the day, don’t just list them out.
6. Time Blocks
Block out chunks of time in your day for your different tasks. Ex. 8-8:30am review priority list from previous day and set today’s priorities. 8:30-9:15am emails, 9:15-10:30am Project 1, and so on. This will help you stay on track and keep from allowing distractions to derail your day.
7. Meeting Agendas
For meetings, have a planned agenda. Anything that is off topic and not urgent, table that and come back to another time. Create the action item list then and there during the meeting as you go along.
8. Distraction Blocks
Set a time for those activities that typically cause distractions–social media, email, texts, phone calls, etc. Use ONLY this time to check those items.
9. Say “Yes” to Less
Projects that can be tasked out, should be. Events that don’t add value to you or those that you care about the most should be politely declined. This is a hard one for many people, but your time is valuable–save it for the things and the people that need it most (including time for yourself).
10. Boundaries at Home
If you need to do work at home outside of working hours, tell your family you need “x amount of time.” For that TIME BLOCK (see point 6 above), go and focus on that work, and that work only. This will be better than being distracted and not fully present for your work and family.
If you would like to learn more about creating more mindfulness and productivity for your employees in the workplace, learn about our Mindfulness and Movement Rx Seminar or schedule an overview conversation using the form below!