In a world of constant information overload, excessive pressure from multiple tasks or projects that need to be completed ‘now’ and ever increasing demands from management, it’s easy to get trapped into the multitasking mindset, which can mean you’re doing lots of things (including insignificant things) poorly rather than the fewer important things brilliantly.
Having been exposed to this conventional way of thinking within the corporate world of big business in particular, I’ve seen many people confuse activity with accomplishment by multi-tasking instead of mono-tasking.
Contrary to this conventional multitasking way of doing things, I’ve found that adopting a ‘slow down to speed up’ methodology actually makes people far more efficient and effective, resulting in individuals and teams accomplishing some outstanding achievements, in shorter timeframes too.
The ‘slow down to speed up’ methodology is built around the ‘Power of One’ or more commonly known as mono-tasking, which is the practice of dedicating yourself to a given task and minimising potential distractions or interruptions until the task is completed or a significant period of time has elapsed.
Any fool can be busy and often they are, busy going nowhere except round and round in circles, whereas slowing down to consider “What one single thing would make the biggest and best impact on my results?” and then focusing on achieving that one single thing with laser focus can make all the difference to the quality and impact of the end results.
This means breaking things down in relation to achievement of a particularly important task or project, one single thing at a time, e.g.
THE POWER OF ONE:
And so on…
The ‘Power of One’ frees up headspace to give 100% concentrated attention to what’s really important and strengthens your creative brain power instead of diluting it by trying to concentrate on too many things at once. See Dangers of Multitasking*
So, how can you break the habit of multitasking and test out the advantages of the ‘Power of One’ mono-tasking for yourself?
Much of it revolves around better use of your time and attention, which requires the discipline and the tools to stop interruptions and block distractions.
In the spirit of the ‘Power of One’ message, here’s one very simple way to help you embrace a mono-tasking mindset and stay mindful of focusing only on doing the work that’s most important to you.
Use technology for your benefit and not the other way around, starting by blocking out ‘Power of One’ time in your calendar.
Create special defined times during the day, week or month to complete the tasks relevant to achievement of ‘what’s your most important’ area of priority.
Try to schedule the defined times when you’re in your peak performance mode, e.g. I hate early mornings and operate best at times when others are often winding down for lunch or just finishing work at tea-time. These are times when I’m able to focus most effectively so I build these into my calendar accordingly. You’ll know what times work best for you so be sure to build these in.
Build communications and other tasks around these special defined times to check and respond to voicemails and e-mails and only do this at the scheduled times because otherwise, it’s easy to ‘lose’ time and focus.
Advise colleagues, bosses and direct reports that this is ‘quiet time’ and you’re not to be disturbed unless the reason for any interruption is critical, namely: important andurgent.
The vital thing about blocking out these times is then, respecting them and asking others to respect them too, which means not compromising your objectives by bowing to the pressure from others who may not be respectful of your time and attention! As flattering as it may seem and as much as it may massage some peoples egos, it can seriously damage their productivity.
So often I see people allowing technology or other people manage (distract) them rather than the other way around, with alerts and notifications taking their attention away from the very things that are most important, distracting them to the degree that they lose the flow they were in.
This is why it’s especially important to put the digital world on mute for a while when needed, including turning off social media notifications on computers and smartphone so that you avoid the temptation to see what’s going on and don’t get distracted.
Also, close down emails, put an ‘out of office’ message on and switch your smartphone to silent or airplane mode for the period you’ve allocated to work on your most important tasks in the calendar.
Doing this will stop the habit of instantly replying to messages and requests, which are often not that urgent or important in relation to what you want to achieve.
The alternative is to continue the habit of multitasking and if this is your choice, it’s worth considering the following:
Dangers of multitasking *
Neuroscience research has found that chronic multi-tasking can actually decrease the grey matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex region of the brain associated with pain resistance, willpower, motivation, drive, focus and emotional control and which, connects with both the (emotional) limbic system and the (logical) pre-frontal cortex.
In other words, your mental agility and resilience could be compromised by excessive multitasking.
Additionally, research by the American Psychological Association shows that multitasking can actually decrease productivity, saying that even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40% of someone’s productive time.
One of the key reasons I’ve found this to be true is because some people try to chunk work into small time slots with the perception that they can get a lot more done, e.g. they chunk work into 15-30 time slots, which ends up being short bursts of attention and energy.
The key thing here is that the race is not all about short sprints but longer runs where concentration and creativity can be much deeper and ultimately, more productive in terms of the quality of work achieved and far more impressive end results.
End Note: Applying the ‘Power of One’ or mono-tasking versus multitasking could be the difference between getting some of the breakthroughs you want or the nervous breakdown you don’t want so why not try it out for yourself.
And if you want to know a little more about Mind Hacking, just click the link below.
The Mind Hacker & Author of the Strong Minds Book, Online Courses & Podcasts ‘Changing Attitudes – Changing Outcomes’