Is Monotasking the New Multitasking?

Forget multitasking, break the trap of busyness. Try monotasking to get your focus, attention and super efficiency back this year

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Multitasking strategists take a backseat. The mantra of hurry, bustle and do more is no longer exciting. The myth of multitasking is exposed, as multitasking connoisseurs—doing it all in one moment—no longer signify agility and super-success. We had become ‘multitasking ninjas’ living in a culture that celebrated and worshiped those who do too much in one go. The pre-pandemic mantra was: the more you multitask, the more successful you are.

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The pandemic paused the multitasking glory. The world slowed down. Multitasking became a bottleneck to attention. We learnt how to monotask, to keep our stress levels down. Multitasking is attempting multiple things at the same time; monotasking is about doing one thing at a time. Says Shikha Mittal, founder, Be.artsy, “We need to make 2022 the year of focus and replace multitasking with monotasking. This is the only way to get our razor sharp focus back. I learnt from trekking the importance of single-minded focus and attention; there is just one rule: keep walking up the mountain regardless of the terrain, be it rain or snow, dark or the harsh sun, keep the feet tapping."

Aren’t we forever trying to multitask on our laptops and smartphones. How many windows or apps are simultaneously open on your gadgets? Have we forgotten the art of doing one thing at a time? Research by Gloria Mark at the University of California found that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to an original task after an interruption. According to the research group Dscout, we touch our phones around 2,617 times a day.

While writing, I’m also checking my Gmail, sending text messages, or replying on Whatsapp and catching up on Instagram at the same time. This permanent state of distraction is injected into our daily lives so much, that we hardly even notice ourselves succumbing to it. How often do you find yourself mindlessly scrolling away at your phone, with no recollection of what you see? Is it affecting our productivity, energy and mood?

Wellbeing in 2022 is teaching yourself and re-learning monotasking. Monotasking is about being mindful, not giving into technology urges and or indulging in too many tasks. Too much technology destroys focus. Monotasking can be daunting and difficult. Says Malti Bhojwani, business coach, "There was a time when we could devote deliberate thinking time to a project by locking ourselves in a room and putting our phones “on mute,” but those days are gone. Monotasking requires discipline, time-boxing and setting firm boundaries. Trying to multi-task is rapidly switching from one point of focus to another, but never allowing the brain the time to sink into single-pointed focus, let alone access creativity.”

Effective multitasking gives a false sense of success and super-efficiency. According to Earl Miller, a neuroscientist from MIT, our brains are “not wired to multitask well… When people think they’re multitasking, they’re just switching from one task to another very rapidly.” In his TED talk ‘Forget multitasking, try monotasking',  Paolo Cardini, says, “Get deep into the one task you are doing at that moment and rediscover what it's like to immerse yourself in the simple life.”

Is 2022 going to be Year of Monotasking, do we need to bring our focus back by training ourselves to be more attentive. Is effective monotasking the new efficiency? “Yes,” says author Thatcher Wine in his book, The Twelve Monotasks: Do One Thing At A Time To Do Everything Better, “Whether you call it monotasking, mindfulness, being present, or any other name, the goal is the same: Give your focus to one thing at a time.  When we do things with our full focus, like reading a book, listening to someone in a conversation - amazing things can happen. Throughout the pandemic, I read printed books to build my focus; I walked three times a day to get fresh air. I worked on my listening skills with my friends and family. I couldn't travel but I paid attention to things I had never noticed on the way to work. I relearned how to play piano at home by watching YouTube videos. My efforts to monotask were successful. If I tried to so more than one thing, my stress levels increased. When I stayed focused and monotasked, I relaxed and became more productive. The antidote to our ever-expanding to-do lists, the distractions of modern life, and fragmentation of our attention is to do one thing at a time."

Monotasking is all about reclaiming our attention to get through some very difficult times. Says Peyush Bhatia, success coach, “The pandemic has made us realise we don’t need to be super-skilled multitaskers. 2022 is a year of mono-tasking for super impact. Human beings. Not human doings. That’s my new mantra. When we multitask, we operate from place of stress, we are in the doing mode. Monotasking conserves energy and prevents unnecessary burnout. Monotasking makes us feel good when we are able to do more with better quality in lesser time."

Keep strengthening your monotasking muscles. The more you monotask, the more you will live your life with ease and efficiency. The mantra is simple: live smarter, live attentive, to live happier!