Research suggests that we’re distracted in the workplace a staggering 47% of the day. We check our tech on average a whopping 270 times (or more). It has even been suggested that we spend more time online than we do sleeping. No wonder then, that we find it hard to focus. Rest easy, it’s possible to train your brain and remain in the zone. Here’s why your brain will thank you for monotasking.
Your brain on multitasking
We think we’re being smart when we multitask. The reality is we’re reducing our efficacy. Switchtasking, jumping from one task to another, is bad for your focus and bad for your brain. Researchers have found that multi tasking adds to your cognitive load resulting in multiple mistakes along with increased stress.
Rather than making us more efficient, switchtasking makes us less accurate and slows us down. When we pile on the pressure with multiple tasks, we’re feeding into the feeling that there’s too much to do and not enough time to do it in.
Response Selection Bottleneck
Research by René Marois (2005) at Vanderbilt University, using fMRI found that the brain responds to multiple tasks with a “response selection bottleneck” slowing us down as it attempts to prioritise tasks.
We’re literally overloading our circuits to the point that they just don’t know what to do next.
Time to Press Pause
Little wonder then, that multitasking impacts negatively on our learning, leaving us feeling fatigued, depleted and prone to stress. Without adequate renewal in the day our overload contributes to the release of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Hmmm. Time to rethink how we deign our workplaces and the expectations we place on performing more than one task as a matter of course.
Left unchecked, the long-term effects upon health and wellbeing can be catastrophic. You’re creating burnout for your brain. The answer? Monotasking.
Monotasking gives you the opportunity to focus, it stops you from becoming overloaded and reduces your levels of stress. Here’s how.
1.Compartmentalise tasks. Bunch tasks together into low focus, medium focus and high focus categories. Set aside periods of time in the day for high focus tasks of at least 60 minutes. For high focus tasks, create a space where you won;t be interrupted.
2. Circadian Rhythm. Identify the time of day when you’re at your best. This is the time for those high focus tasks when your energy is at it’s peak.
Identify the dips in your energy and schedule in the low focus tasks that aren’t going to drain you or require tons of focus.
3. Go digital detox. Dial down the tech to minimise distractions. Have periods in your day when you turn off your alerts and unplug. To monotask you’ll need to minimise distractions and fully focus.
4. Design your day. Schedule your day before you start. Prioritise and organise your time so that you’re working with your energy levels, building in time for renewal (that’s a break to you and me).
You won’t gain by ploughing through your workload, you’ll just get slower and slower. Plenty of scheduled breaks and mindful pauses will keep your energy levels constant.
5. Stop Switchtasking. This is really about re-training your brain. Designate 30 minute segments to each batch of compartmentalised tasks. If you’re struggling, use an alarm, an app or egg timer and don’t budge until times up.
We’ve worked with thousands of individuals and companies to improve performance, build resilience and embed focus in teams. We provide a number of training courses incorporating brain based strategies to;
- Build leadership
- Develop resilience
- Increase Stress management & focus at work
- Embed growth mindset
We also provide performance coaching using mindfulness, positive psychology, growth mindset and metta coaching. Want to know more? Get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.
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