Monotasking: Focus on One Thing at a Time


No matter how much you have piled up on your desk, and regardless of how bad-ass a multitasker you are, you can only do one thing at a time. Remembering this is one sure-fire way to increase your productivity, ease your mental load and knock things off your to-do list with efficiency.

There are two schools of thought on this. One says: juggle tasks and get stuff done a little at a time. This type of incremental thinking is prone to mistakes. It’s easy to lose focus this way and while I consider myself to be pretty good at mental juggling, I’ve found that when I split mind time between a bunch of projects, they can get jumbled and this opens us up to error.

The other school of thought is a little more pure, and a lot more simple: Focus on one thing at a time, get it done and move on to the next task.

(Note: Taking a little mental or musical break in between each task doesn’t hurt either as a way of keeping focused and inspired)

Stacks Upon Stacks of Stuff

We’ve all been there—busy and seemingly without enough time in the day to get everything we’re responsible for done. Here’s where panic can set in. That little voice in your head—the really doubtful, negative one—goes from a whisper to a shout screaming:

We are soooo screwed this time!

Yet, the truth is, when we compartmentalize our thoughts, keep our focus on the moment and the project, it’s amazing how much we can accomplish.

When we get rattled by our busyness, we’re in trouble. It’s easy to let anxiety and the pressure of stacks upon stacks of stuff grind us to a productivity stand-still. All the more reason to remember the simple mantra:

Monotasking – One and Done.

Getting Into The Flow of Monotasking

Stay focused on one task and you’ll be through even the biggest pile of work in no time. In fact, when you stay completely focused, fully in the moment and deeply engaged in the project before you, it’s amazing how quickly time flies. The term for this is known as flow and it’s been written about widely by noted psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. (See his TED talk on the topic.)

This is the productivity holy grail. Entering a state of flow puts us in the optimal “get more stuff done” zone. The catalyst for this is focus and one-pointedness of mind regarding how we work. This is often a change of course for the modern worker. With a million windows and documents open, emails constantly dinging in the inbox and an equal number of text, tweets and other information streaming in, it’s challenging to get to flow in the first place – if ever.

But I promise you’ll work better, smarter and get more done if you can:

  • disengage from the information onslaught;
  • let the other work fall into the periphery and;
  • fully immerse ourselves in the moment.

That’s not just a promise…that’s a guarantee.


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Coe Douglas is a recovering advertising agency creative director and occasional music video director. He currently works as a freelance writer and brand strategist, helping companies find their voice and tell their story. He blogs and lives online at coedouglas.com

Discussion

  1. I completely agree with this article.

    And I do the exact same thing and it is totally true that if you focus on one task at a time, you will get it done quicker and more effectively, instead of trying to finish more than a couple of tasks at a time and taking more time to complete each of them.

    Nabeel

  2. Needian - Organize in 1,2,3 on the 28th June

    Great advice! GTD & Pomodoro can be of help here.

  3. Deden Luo on the 20th August

    Really good article you wrote bro. I face lot work on my job now. Sometimes feel overwhelmed and the job never done well.

    I found your article and give me idea and i wanna practice it.

    Thanks again
    Deden Luo

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