Monotasking vs. Multitasking? Which Works

In our super-busy lives, with most people digitally pulled in much of the time, it is easy to do several things at the same time, or multitasking, in efforts to save time. Doing more with less, right? But what about monotasking, or doing thing one-at-a-time?  Research found that we tend to switch activities every 3 mins during typical workday. Every 3 minutes you are onto something else.

lot's to do

Busyness, a modern day Badge of Honour?

So, every 3 minutes we are onto a different task, again in the interest of getting more done in less time. Great idea right?  It turns out that it ends up taking longer to get back to and complete the original task.  Not only that, but multitasking leads to higher stress levels, increased degrees of frustration, more likelihood of making mental errors, a persistent feeling of time pressure and general mental/emotional overload.

In contrast, a relaxed alert state is ideal, especially for performance. Athletes deliberately try to get into that type of state, to optimizing performance. This indicates that intentionally using mindfulness-type practices, tools and techniques will not only reduce stress and anxiety, it will also improve one’s productivity  while decreasing the chance of burnout. Win-win.

Tried it, Doesn’t Work For Me

Do you find yourself saying ‘Yeah, but I’ve tried that, and it doesn’t work” and/or “it failed”? We tend to be harsh and unjust on ourselves.  Consider persisting with some of these mindfulness tools, rather than dismissing them as unhelpful.  If you were learning to play piano, you’d give yourself time to practice and learn, prior to really seeing some of the results of your efforts. Same idea applies here.

Keep in mind that the practices of mindfulness are about connecting to one’s experiences in a different manner, adding to quality and characteristic of awareness.  The idea is to slow down and tune-in to different aspects and qualities of our experiences.

So, instead of getting trapped back into more (negative) thinking, ie., our lists, who to call etc., mindfulness practices are more about connecting, experiencing and relishing in experiences. A classic mindfulness breathing practice is fundamental throughout, but mindfulness behaviours may include things like deliberately listening to music rather than having in the background, or going for a run without music, savouring the outdoor experience, smelling a tomato before you cut it for tonight’s salad, or just standing in line at the grocery store without checking Facebook.

For some folks, this increase in awareness may come easily, and for others, not as easy. Be persistent and patient with the various mindfulness tools. It takes time to get good at these practices, behaviours and attitude, before seeing benefits. Furthermore, consistent practice can improve skills sets to accept how stuff goes and not have anything ‘stick’. Once you ‘get’ that you don’t have to have things ‘attach’ to you and create a negative experience.  Letting go is a major stress busting tool.

Consistency Matter A Lot

This is kinda where the rubber hits the road. Much like joining a gym, where to get physically fit, you follow a regular exercise routine. So, whereas exercising muscles, even muscles like attention,  means that practically mindfulness requires a deliberate, dedicated effort.

Consider yourself and your experience as a work-in-progress, you are not going to get this right straight away, try to pay as much attention to your experiences as you can, because it keeps being worth it, every time you try.

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