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Stop multitasking, start monotasking

By Anna Rayner, Apr 17 2017 11:35AM

We all do it, juggling umpteen things at once and getting stressed in the process - replying to emails, gulping down a quick sandwich, ordering the weekly shop. Multitasking is seen as an important skill in this busy modern world but chances are that if you actually just focus on one thing at a time, i.e. monotasking, you'll get more done and find everything (including work) a lot more enjoyable and a lot less stressful.

When we instead focus on one thing at a time we're faster, more accurate and it's actually much more rewarding because each time we complete an action our brain releases the pleasure hormone dopamine. Adopting the monotasking approach allows you to immerse yourself in what you're doing, enabling you to be your most creative and effective self, whilst we improve our relationships by giving people our full attention. When multitasking this simply isn't the case - tasks take longer and because we're not giving them our full attention it's easier to make mistakes. Read on to find out how to apply monotasking in all areas from work to friendships for a more productive, less stressed life.


Whether it's writing an important email or reading an article in your favourite magazine set aside just five minutes to focus on that task alone. Remove all distractions for that time and notice how you feel, then start to increase the length of these distraction free times aiming for at least 20 minutes per project.


Instead of jumping out of bed with minutes to spare in the morning spend five minutes just stretching and breathing deeply before you start the day. To avoid the morning rush set your alarm 20 minutes earlier so that you can avoid multitasking chaos by completing each step to the day calmly and methodically. This will mean that you start off in a more balanced mental state so that you'll notice sooner if you are doing too much or getting stressed later on.


Instead of using your smartphone for everything wear a watch to check the time, wait until you're on your laptop or pc to start answering emails and use a proper camera for taking photographs. This means that you won't get distracted by intrusive messages when you're checking the time or taking a photo.


Giving the people in our life our full attention helps us to relate to them better on a deeper level and underlines how important they are to us so take at least 10 minutes in the evening with no TV, with your phone in another room and after the kids are asleep to catch up with your significant other with no distractions. If you're not in the mood to chat, watch a film together or listen to music for some real quality time.


Really listening to others is perhaps the most valuable way to monotask. Stop scrolling through facebook, making a shopping list or planning tomorrow's presentation and turn your body towards the person talking and make eye contact. To make sure you fully understand what they are saying once they have finished you could repeat the main points and ask "Did I get that right?"


There's nothing more sure to make you feel disconnected from your friends when you're on a night out than all constantly being interrupted by your phones. Instead, put all your phones in a pile out of sight - the first one to cave in and check their phone has to buy the next round!


Make a to- do list of all the tasks you'd like to finish in one day - you probably won't get through them all but prioritise one thing that you need to complete no matter what. Once that's done you can then start to work through the rest in order of importance.

This one's hard but remove distractions before you make an important call or have an important discussion with a colleague. Before you do so, turn off your computer screen or shut down your phone's apps so you won't be tempted to let your attention wander. In the same vein, leave your phone behind when you go into a meeting.

Allow yourself pockets of time during the day when you give your full attention to one task and then don't give it any attention outside that period. For example, allow yourself 30 minutes to check emails at three times spaced out throughout the day - say at 10am, 2pm and 4.30pm and that's all. Or use an app that organises your messages for easier viewing.


Making monotasking a success is about identifying areas where it can work for you and having the awareness and self control to inhibit those inefficient multitasking habits when we can.


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