The Virtues of Monotasking

Do you have trouble focusing? Does your memory often fail you? Creative people especially get more easily distracted, than anyone else; particularly if the task in hand does not come easily or seems less worthwhile.

Read on to discover how mono-tasking can help you better live up to your potential by improving the quality of your attention and power of concentration.

Success is closely connected to the ability to stay on task without being sidetracked by little temptations on the way. Although the quality of our attention is determined by a number of factors, here’s an important component which instantly puts you back in the driving seat of your life.

Once we have decided to attend to a particular task which requires thought we are all too easily led astray, finding it hard to resist urges and temptations that call for our attention nowConstantly divided attention undermines the development of your intelligence.

The good news is that attention can be trained in a number of ways and the rewards that come with this increased control are:

  • Better quality of focus and memory
  • Increased efficacy
  • Improved sense of well-being.

 The Myth of Multi-Tasking
 A generation of people has been misled, aspiring to the super abilities of the great multitasker, lured by promises of assured success. We now know that doing several things at once – which require equal cognitive abilities – diminishes all the outcomes.

For all the glories of modern technology – the pleasures of instant communication and access to information that come with it – it is vital that we admit to ourselves that this technology has stealthily taken over our lives, and in the process deprived us of a crucial freedom: the ability to decide where and for how long to focus our attention on a given task.

Our minds flit about, incapable of resisting the pinging, chirping or rings of texts, emails, Facebook or phone. Researchers are concerned that these distractions are seriously impeding children’s ability to learn and adults’ ability to deliver quality work. In the US up to 80% of school kids admit to texting in lessons; university students multitask on mobile devices when in lectures and studies found that minutes into a thinking task, like homework, children get distracted by the lure of their messages. Try and count how many times in just 15 minutes you find yourself mindlessly checking your mobile phone.

 The results of this multitasking? Reduced quality of work, mental fatigue, poor memory, inability to transfer information to different contexts.

In fact: a reduced version of who you could be, inhabiting a much impoverished mental landscape.

 More control over your own success
Here’s how you can start affecting your ability to stay focused and thereby do justice to who you can be.

1. Allocate time to thinking tasks and turn off all message signals in the process, so that you do one thing at a time.

If you are a pupil, struggling with homework: Build up blocks of concentration time from 15 minutes to 20, 30 and so on, allowing yourself minibreaks of 5 minutes in between.

If you work in an office or at home: Plan your day in advance, chunking time and alternating tasks. You could consider starting the day with 30 minutes or an hour to catch-up on emails, before allocating 90 minutes to tasks that demand your undivided attention and from which you will reap well-deserved rewards.

2. Learn to prioritise.

3. Turn off all your devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime and get yourself an old-fashioned alarm clock so that you can leave your mobile outside the bedroom.

4. Take up mindfulness meditation. Studies show that a mere 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation a day, helps people regain their own willpower.

Finally, if you run a school, an office or learning centre, why not take it upon yourself to introduce these simple coaching skills into the workplace, teaching people to do one thing at a time. As people regain control over their own minds by strengthening willpower, intelligence and performance levels will soar, affecting a general sense well-being and contentment.

By Renée van der Vloodt