The solution: close all tabs, focus only on one task at a time.
It’s really not easy at all to focus on one thing and one thing only. “I guess it’d be easier if we lived in environments with much less input”, I hear myself thinking, annoyed by the distracting sounds of a crying baby, chirping birds and howling police sirens. On top of it, the neighbours are really cranking up the music again. And did I mention that my phone is driving me nuts?
Ok. Take a deep breath. Start again.
We have lost the simple capacity of focussing on one thing at a time.
It’s called mono-tasking.
And yes, it’s proven that it’s a very good concept for us.
Goodbyw Multi-Tasking – Hello Monotasking?
I know the scenario all too well: I feel much more stressed when I try to do everything at once, instead of tackling the tasks at hand one at a time. The thing is, that the quality also suffers. Instead of saving time, I waste both time and energy, by redirecting the focus of my efforts too quickly, over and over again. The result is, first and foremost: stress. I think deep down we all know that mono-tasking is a much more viable approach than multitasking.
So why are we so stuck in our multitasking ways?
Because we have lost touch with the alternative.
Mono-tasking is a skill that’s easily forgotten if you don’t train it regularly. The lack of training is proportionate to the proneness of getting distracted. Nothing is more readily available than distraction these days. One glance at the smartphone screen is enough, and we get sucked into a vortex of distraction-mechanisms, when all we wanted to do is to put on that one tune to play in the background. And before we know, a sizable quantity of time has gone down the drain again, we checked our e-mails, left a couple of likes in Instagram, posted in the family chat on Instagram… and still haven’t played that song. Oops, must have forgotten about it.
It really doesn’t come as a surprise that so many of us are permanently stressed out, constantly balancing on the edge of a burnout. In a way, multitasking is a synonym for a self-cultivated attention deficit disorder. The effect is neurological: the density in the anterior singular cortex diminishes among media-multitaskers, as scientists at the University of Sussex have found out.
So much for “I’m handling several things at once”.
In truth, this is self deception, to be filed in one category with classics like “I don’t need much sleep” and “I need the pressure”.
According to a study by the university of Michigan, we lose 20-40% of our effectivity if we jump to quickly between tasks, and our susceptibility for errors increases considerably. What follows is a downward spiral, at the end of which there’s nothing but frustration and stress.
But here’s the thing: to focus all of your attention on one task, can be incredibly beautiful and rewarding: you cleanse your mind, and devote your entire being to this one thing. The world around you closes all the open tabs, for once.
A sense of tranquility overtakes you.
I look at my watch. It’s 12 o’clock, on the dot.
I make the resolution to focus on this text for the next thirty minutes, without letting my mind stray.
How am I going to go about it?
One thing that always helps is – surprise – meditation.
As you know, I’m a huge fan.
Another helpful strategy: set yourself a timeframe. In specialist lingo, this is called time-boxing, and it basically describes an approach of compartmentalization of the available time: you assign each task with a certain, concrete timeframe. Half an hour for this job, then an hour of something less taxing on my concentration, then one hour of work involving physical activity, etc. This kind of time management helps me to work much more efficiently and consciously, all through the simple act of compartmentalizing my time.
But for all these usueful strategies, I am still an apprentice, far from mastery of my time. I am still all too easily distracted, especially in the initial stage of a task, when I’m still somewhere else with my mind, and when the flow has not kicked in yet. It’s that tricky stage in which I’m still processing the previous task, while my mind is booting the program for the task at hand. Maybe it’s time for a bunch of updates in my personal operating system.
But hey, one thing at a time.