Multitasking: A myth?
The Cambridge Dictionary states the term ‘multitasking’ is ‘a person’s ability to do more than one thing at a time’. Humans multitask continually throughout the day; whether that be reading emails whilst on a conference call, or responding to a text message whilst watching television. Have you ever been encouraged by your employer to do more than one task at once?
Multitasking effectively means switching between tasks and giving less than 100% of your attention at one time (Forbes, 2018). Research has shown that multitasking is ineffective and inefficient in the workplace. With employee to-do lists the length of an arm, there is pressure to achieve multiple tasks throughout the day, however these tasks are now much more likely to be completed to lower standard. Why? When we learn information whilst multitasking, our brains file this information away as though we’ve learned a simple skill. Yet, what actually happens is due to our brains being overloaded, we cannot grasp new information to the best of our ability and so the quality of our work suffers.
Forbes (2018) stated that whilst an individual multitasks, their ‘speedy pace loses its value as results are underwhelming’.This statement highlights that whilst multitasking gets the job done quickly, it doesn’t necessarily mean your work is completed to the highest standard. Neen James, a keynote speaker and leadership coach, explains “it’s not about time anymore. It’s about the combination of time, attention, and energy” which encompasses the view that we should be giving our undivided attention to a single task at one time. This is where the term ‘monotasking’ comes in, an alternative to multitasking.
Monotasking, as defined by the Cambridge dictionary, is ‘the act of doing only one task at a time, especially in order to work more effectively’. This term encompasses multitasking in a way you won’t imagine. By giving your undivided attention to one job, the likelihood of you completing this in a timely fashion and to a higher standard is a given, because your attention is not divided into different chunks. Effectively, by adopting monotasking and multitasking principles, you will see a surge in the efficiency and value of your work because you are allowing yourself to focus.
However, it’s likely that most of us multitask innately now, as we’ve been doing it for so long that it has become a bad habit. So, what can you do to break this bad habit? We have a few simple things that you can do to productively monotask:
List your priorities. Start your day by writing out a to-do list, putting your tasks in order of importance and then checking each job off as you go. By identifying what you need to do and committing to your to-do-list, this will help you to maintain focus on those important tasks and keep you from switching to other tasks that are not priorities.
Set aside any distractions. Your email inbox, your phone and any open tabs on your computer are all invitations for distraction. But, do you really need to have 10 tabs open? Or, do you need to respond to your emails as soon as you receive them? Give yourself some time each day when you close your inbox, or put your phone in your bag, and remove unnecessary tabs. This will help you to focus on your tasks as you aren’t allowing other things the opportunity to play on your mind.
Emails can be extremely intrusive to your focused mindset, because when you receive an email, you feel an immediate urgency to respond to it. However, you will find that you get more done in your day if you don’t constantly respond to your emails. Schedule certain times in your day for checking and responding to emails, rather than compulsively checking and responding.
Learn to take a break. Many of us are guilty of working through our lunch break, or working longer hours in the day to make sure we hit our priorities. However, our brains get tired, and if you work your brain harder, you will eventually find it difficult to focus and work productively on anything. Give yourself time in your day to walk away from your computer, and disconnect your thoughts from work entirely during this time. This will ultimately revitalise your mind and allow you to better focus on your list of priorities when you return.
With a decade of experience in high quality care provision and a decade of care training expertise, we at eLearning For You know that it’s vital for you to stay focused in your day-to-day role, to ensure that you are giving the highest quality, person-centred care that you can. We understand that it’s easier said than done, especially as distraction is what our minds are drawn to. Whilst it’s difficult to break out of any habit, by achieving monotasking instead of multitasking, you will reap the benefits of a new level of productivity, that you can only dream of right now!