Continuing on with the 365 Days of Ted Talks productivity theme week, today’s blog post is in response to Paolo Cardini’s Ted talk “Forget multitasking, try monotasking.” In this brief 3 minute talk Paolo challenges us to really question whether multitasking is all that it’s cracked up to be and he provides us with an alternative – monotasking.
Monotasking vs Multitasking
Multitasking simply means doing more than one thing at once. Monotasking means to just focus on the one single task at hand. I have noticed a trend were people who multitask used to be seen as highly productive people, but nowadays if someone tells you they multitask they are perceived to be overwhelmed and not efficient. It is almost as if they are seen as multitasking out of necessity as they have not scheduled their time effectively. That’s just my observation, yours might be completely different, and it could very well be based on my own personal experiences.
I have a real problem with multitasking – I can’t stop doing it. At any given moment in time I am usually involved in two tasks simultaneously. If I am not physically doing two things at once, my body and mind are at a conflict instead. My body might be busy completing a task and my brain is off somewhere else busy finishing off a mental shopping list. It’s not a pretty sight. Do I feel a sense of achievement after a multitasking stint- heck no, I usually feel twice as exhausted. It also usually takes me twice as long to finish all the tasks I am trying to complete simultaneously.
The pros of monotasking
Paolo brought up a very good point in his talk. He asked the audience when was the last time they were on the phone with friends and really just enjoyed the sound of their voice? When was the last time they just listened to their friend on the phone and not listened to them whilst doing some other task at the same time. When we are actively and simultaneously working on two tasks at once, both these tasks become diluted and we rob ourselves of the pure enjoyment that they can give us.
I live near a beach, I don’t get there as often as I would like, but when I do go for a walk along the beach I would usually be listening to my headphones. A couple of months ago after one of my walks I had lunch with a friend who asked me how my walk is and told me how much she loved going to the beach and listening to the sound of the waves. She asked me if the waves sounded particularly loud that day. I couldn’t answer her. I had just been to the beach for an hour but had been listening to podcasts the entire time. I had my headphones in before I even reached the beach so hadn’t even heard the ocean for a second! If my first month of my 365 Days of Ted challenge taught me anything its that we need to slow down and appreciate the awesomeness around us. Multitasking robbed me of just being in the moment and enjoying the sound of the crashing waves.
Monotasking gets the job done quicker
The other real benefit of monotasking is that is allows us to complete something quicker. Rather than split our time and focus onto two tasks, if we instead give 100% of our attention onto just one task then without a doubt we will finish it quicker than if we were working on multiple tasks simultaneously.
Monotasking means 100% focus
Monotasking is especially useful for tasks that require 100% concentration such as blog writing and research. Doing anything else during this time will only dilute your attention and you will be mentally jumping back and forth.
The pros of multitasking
So now here’s were I now contradict myself and disagree with Paolo a little. I think that there is definitely a place in our lives for multitasking. Some tasks, such as doing the dishes, just don’t require a whole lot of mental stamina and if we could use this time efficiently by multitasking we would be simply freeing up more time in our day to relax. Commuting to work by train is another one of those low mental activities that could benefit from a bit of multitasking. During these times I like use the time smartly and listen to podcasts and business books. I have gotten through an incredible amount of content this way.I don’t watch television much, but if I do I will always be doing something else at the same time. Usually just household chores, folding clothes, ironing that sort of thing.
How to tell what tasks I can multitask and what task I can monotask?
I basically split everything I do into two groups, “mechanical” and “requires 100% focus”. Mechanical tasks to me are things that although they do need focus, they are not the type of tasks that I need 100% uninterrupted focus. For me this is usually household type chores and things like basic image editing or maintenance type tasks of my blog. The true concentration stuff for me is writing. I need uninterrupted focus to do any form or creative work such as video editing and blog post writing. Not everyone is programmed the same and what I might require focus for, you might not and that’s okay. You should however, try to be aware of what tasks you require full focus for and what other tasks you run on autopilot for.
Today’s action step
I have created yet another printable for my 365 Days of Ted Talks challenge. This time round the printable is a worksheet to divide tasks into two groups – monotask and multitask. If I am honest with myself I already know which tasks need to be completed on their own and which tasks can be completed whilst doing something else as well, but by having them actually written down on hard copy I am hoping that I can retrain my brain and amp up my self-control to be a monotasker for things that require my full attention. Feel free to download the printable worksheet below that I am using.
Are you a multi-tasker or mono-tasker? I would love to know your answer in the comment box below.