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Monotasking is the New Multitasking
Multitasking used to be a sense of pride for many, but research now shows that monotasking is where real productivity appears. Instead of frequently switching tasks in the hope of improving productivity, these studies describe a brain unable to recover.
Workflow is hindered, and time is lost.
As monotasking becomes a fixture in the workplace, it’s important that your office supports this work environment. Providing your team with the right tools to improve monotasking means that productive collaboration will improve.
What is Monotasking?
Monotasking, also known as single-tasking or unitasking, is just that: paying attention to one task at a time. This typically means spending two to four hours focused on a single task, instead of spending ten minutes on one project and twenty on another.
Monotasking can be successfully used in the office, though some take it further and use this idea to get away to finish a book, launch an idea, or another significant task. Removing yourself from distraction will improve your likelihood of finishing it.
Multitasking Doesn’t Equal Increased Productivity
Multitasking is a misnomer, because you aren’t actually doing more than one task at a time. As smartphones grew in popularity nearly a decade ago and push notifications became an accepted part of life, the number of distractions we have has grown significantly.
These distractions mean our brains are frequently switching tasks, and we end up being less productive because we need time to recover from each distraction.
As our brains attempt to switch between tasks, our productivity decreases by as much as 40%. This task-switching occurs with significant tasks like projects for work, but also with smaller tasks like washing the dishes or responding to text messages and other notifications.
Recent studies show those that multitask experience a lowering of their IQ, and it can decrease the area of the brain responsible for empathy and emotional control
There will be times when you need to multitask, like talking to your colleague while driving to a meeting. In these hard-to-control situations, it’s okay to task-switch. But for those areas you can control, developing a monotasking habit can help you stay focused and increase productivity.
Describing monotasking is much easier to do than actually working on one task at a time. But it’s still possible to increase your productivity with the right focus.
Psychologist and Stanford lecturer Kelly McGonigal explains in a NY Times article that monotasking is “something that needs to be practiced… It’s an important ability and a form of self-awareness as opposed to cognitive limitation.”
Don’t consider monotasking as a limiting method of work. Instead, better focus can improve your work product. We’re measured by the quality of our work, so this should be an important part of our work day.
In fact, in the same article, McGonigal describes how monotasking improves our experience at work. When we’re focused on a single task, our experience is more enjoyable. If we’re frequently distracted, we ironically think about how we aren’t finishing the task.
Create Time for Deep Work
Deep work refers to long periods of time with no distractions where you can focus on a single task. This ability to monotask offers enhanced productivity because of the high levels of cognitive ability needed to complete the task.
Some productivity methods suggest only working for 20 to 30 minute blocks, then taking a short break and repeating. Deep work, however, focuses on an extended period of time with a singular focus.
Proponents of deep work say it will lead to achievements you wouldn’t reach through multitasking.
Find Your Peak Productivity Time
Just as some are night owls and others are early birds, your team likely has different times throughout the day when they are most productive. Finding your peak productivity isn’t hard; record what time of day your mind is clear and you’re ready to work.
Once you find what time of day provides the best work results, you can begin scheduling around that period of time. If you generally have meetings during your most productive time, try moving it earlier to later to take full advantage of your productivity “magic hour.”
Stop Making Long to Do Lists
To do lists are an ideal way to stay focused, but are yours too long? Starting each work day with a long to do list can actually backfire, because it can feel overwhelming. If too many days in a row end with items still undone, your mindset and motivation can suffer.
Instead, prioritize the three to four items that have to be done that day. This lower number will appear more manageable, and will help you focus solely on each task without bouncing between them.
Another way to do this is to start a “done” list, where you write down everything you’ve done throughout the day. The thought behind this is that you will be more likely to continue working if you can see how many tasks you’ve accomplished.
Schedule Time Off
If you love your work, are trying to meet a deadline, or are in a busy season it’s easy to begin overworking. While there will be times this is unavoidable, it’s important to schedule your time off.
Blocking out part of your day allows you to recover from the mentally engaging monotasking you’ve completed.
This one to two hour period could be exercise, spending time with family, reading, or other mentally-rejuvenating tasks. This is also an ideal time to try a new hobby. Focus on making work time solely work-centric, and off time only for rejuvenating activities.
Collaborative Ergonomics and Monotasking
With our line of collaborative ergonomic workstations, you can lay out the day’s tasks in an orderly fashion. As you finish one task and move to the next, the “cockpit” helps you stay focused.
A dual screen setup also allows you to monotask more effectively. You can see the scope of your work while staying focused. For example, you can have a document you need to reference on the left, while another is on the right. This design allows you to immerse yourself in your work with minimal distraction.
This means no switching windows on one screen, which minimizes the number of clicks needed to complete your task. Your mind is more focused, so you’re working more efficiently.
Our WeDesk and MeDesk line of office furniture provides your team with the collaborative ergonomics they need to succeed in their work. The WeDesk cluster configurations promote sit and share collaboration, offering an ideal way for your team to work with each other.
The news that multitasking isn’t effective has been circulating for some time, but we still find ourselves and our clients doing it! Monotasking isn’t an easy change to make, but doing so can help you work more efficiently and produce better work.
Our WeDesk and MeDesk office furniture lines maximize space and promotes monotasking while creating a collaborative environment. To learn more and to schedule a free collaborative design session, all you have to do is make one single call to (800) 332-3393.Topics: Collaborative Ergonomics, Office, Open Office