If you’ve ever wished that you were more efficient, more effective, had a better memory, got more enjoyment out of things or just didn’t feel like the year was rushing by, well boy… do I have a concept for you.
Monotasking is simply the act of only doing one thing at a time. For many of us, it’s a crazy thought. Rather than scoffing lunch whilst we catch up on the news, sitting in a meeting whilst checking emails, watching a movie with phone in hand and iPad nearby or Skyping your parents whilst surfing the internet, doing just one of these things at a time actually gets a more desirable outcome.
Ironically, it can be incredibly difficult too. Most people are now at a point where their attention span is so short they will struggle to get through an entire TV show much less a movie without a quick check of their phone or flip through Facebook. In many cases, we’re also conditioned to believe we should be doing more than one thing at a time – it’s a mashup of this ‘fear of missing out’ (or FOMO) and a cultural belief that by trying to do lots of things at once you’re busier and therefore more efficient, more effective and more important.
The fact is we only have so much conscious brain power to dedicate to the task at hand. Splitting our focus between two, three or more activities and stimuli doesn’t increase our capacity but instead simply dilutes the focus given to each thing. We actually miss out on more and reduce our output by insisting on spreading ourselves so thinly.
By monotasking we allow our full attention and focus to be directed to just one place. Whilst it’s an alarmingly difficult practice to cultivate at first, the rewards are plentiful. Devotees speak of everything from increased output at work – being able to turn around tasks that used to take half a day in just a single hour, significantly improved memory and even weight loss by eliminating mindless snacking. Sound good or what?
But where to start? Before you get your judgement face on, stick with this. I humbly suggest the path to enlightenment or at the very least the benefits of monotasking come from mindfulness meditation.
For those who want the short version, mindfulness meditation is essentially brain training. There’s no chanting or om-ing. No mantras and astonishingly few hippies involved. Mindfulness meditation has both formal (sitting still, eyes closed) and informal (going about your day) practices. In all cases all you’re doing is practicing focusing on just one thing and not letting the ‘chatter’ of your brain carry you away.
I’m a huge fan of Smiling Mind – a gorgeous app that will teach you, step by step, how to do this thing… and it’s FREE.
If you like something structured and course-like, try Claire Obeid’s 21 Day Meditation Project and get a different 10 minute meditation delivered to your inbox every day. (There are no new intakes right now, but you can still sign up and be notified when it recommences). The program is 3 weeks long, but you’ll feel the benefits long before the end. Can’t wait that long? I get it. Claire also sells an album of 11 guided meditations ($16.99 AUD).
A final thought: a meditation a day keeps the doctor, psychologist, frustration, forgetfulness, procrastination and exhaustion away. Don’t believe me? Let me know how you feel in 21 days.