I recently shifted to my own place with my husband. While previously I was living in a joint setting, now I was all on my own with little domestic help from my partner who’s usually busy working his long hours at his job to make us a good living. Having no past experience and no system set in place, I was all over the place while doing my house chores.
Trying to secure the laundry in one room, I ended up cleaning and organizing my kitchen cabinets. A while later I found myself washing the dishes from the breakfast we had in the morning. The result? All three tasks were half done and my new home…still a mess.
That was me most of the time. Without realizing how much time and energy every incompleted task was taking me, I was jumping from one task to another to the third all day long. Until I came across a quote…
Credit to the rightful owner. I just came across this linkless image on Pinterest.
But it got me thinking. Hmmm… is this why I feel so overwhelmed with work all the time and fail to accomplish my tasks within the given deadlines? I mean at the end of the day I wasn’t really marking most of the checkboxes on my to-do list.
So, I did what I do best… overthink… I mean I started analyzing myself in my tasks.
As I sat down to write this blog post, I opened Youtube to put some white noise into my ears because… man… the main road right below my apartment is one hell of a busy place. With trucks and busses racing their way to their destinations, everyone is in eternal hurry.
On Youtube, I see a video that brings a very good idea for another blog post I want to write. I open the video and create a quick draft so I don’t forget. While watching the video I’m reminded of the books I ordered of the same speaker and how they must be on their way to me.
The thought triggered me to go look for my mobile phone because, of course, the courier guy must be looking for me. Turns out he wasn’t as he was late.
That’s when I realized, I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do: write my blog post. This poor thing is lying on my to-do list for a good five days. I snap out of everything and come back to my draft.
This time with the intention to not get distracted for at least a Pomodoro.
Oh, that reminds me I did not start my Pomodoro timer.
Let’s not get distracted again.
That’s our brain for us. I mean I don’t recall ever being taught how to focus. Is it my fault? Maybe not, but I need to get my tasks done, and so do you. Let’s see why we can’t multitask and achieve productivity at the same time because, certainly, the idea of getting multiple tasks done at the same time sounds productive enough.
Let me just close the 5 extra tabs I have open in my window, they are very distracting.
1. Mental disruption
As I close the extra tabs, I can feel my laptop getting extra processing powers for the task I’m doing right now. Our brains, unlike computers, don’t have a lot of resources to process multiple tasks at the same time. It’s already doing its best, believe me. While you read this blog post, it’s making sure you are safe which means the chair you are sitting at is convenient enough for your survival and is not killing you. It’s the right amount of soft, is warm enough, is not breaking your back, and so on. It’s making sure you don’t stop breathing and your heart doesn’t stop beating. It’s taking care of the impulses to eat and have sex. It’s taking care of fight or flight response. Our cerebellum is moderating our coordination and movement. The frontal lobe is deriving logic and creativity.
To perform a certain task, that requires your attention and focus, you need to give it maximum resources of your brain. Multiple thoughts running simultaneously devoid you of focus. No good focus means no good function. No good function will eventually lead to incomplete, imperfect, partial tasks.
Just think of it this way, you are working on something that did not exist in the world before you. Shouldn’t it require your best focus and abilities?
Imagine the power you have when you focus on something. You are like a river that can mold rocks and pave its way through the mountains while the small (multiple) streams that originate from the mighty river are a weak and docile workforce.
When I look at the mighty sun, I see not just its beauty but its massive impact on mother earth as well. Sun brings life to life on earth. Its rays bring the plants to life, give us heat and light, and give your body an essential vitamin for survival for free. The same rays of light that bring about so much impact ever so subtly, when magnified on a piece of paper, can ignite a fire. Isn’t it just amazing?
How are habits formed? In simple terms, something that’s repeated so many times that it almost becomes next nature to you.
Our brains have similar functioning. Recently, while reading Limitless, a book by Jim Kwik, a learning expert, I came across the term neuroplasticity. In Jim’s words neuroplasticity is:
‘Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity, means that every time you learn something new, your brain makes a new synaptic connection. And each time this happens, your brain physically changes – it upgrades its hardware to reflect a new level of the mind.’
‘Our brain is malleable. We have the incredible ability to change its structure and organization over time by forming new neural pathways as we experience, learn something new, and adapt.’
That explains why when you let a neural path build by focusing on a single task at hand, you let you improve your productivity.
Innovation is only a man’s forte no other creation has ever been able to innovate because their brains can not support this level of neuroplasticity.
3. Wired for failure
Multitasking will fake a sense of working really hard when actually you aren’t achieving a lot. Because in your mind you don’t have a very clear path for the job at hand, you are more likely to procrastinate. And procrastination happens when there is a conflict between your emotional and logical sides of the brain.
The emotional side of your brain is always looking for comfort and reassurance. It will make you want to avoid difficult tasks that don’t give you any immediate reward. This side of the brain will hamper you from working out every day even though you bought a really pretty set of gym wear.
The rational side is perfect for long-term planning. It’s the perfect side for tackling difficult tasks until it starts overthinking when a task seems too complicated. This phase is called paralysis analysis.
4. It kills the beauty of life
If you are multitasking your way out of everything, you are going against nature itself. On the other hand, when you mono-task most of the time your life will become calmer, more harmonious, focused, and efficient.
Observe your eyes. When they focus on one thing the rest of it gets blurry. You can’t be zoomed in and out at the same time. Even when there is a huge amount of information making its way to you, there is only a limited number of thoughts you can entertain in your conscious awareness.
5. Inattention blindness
When attention is overloaded we miss things and so the performance of the tasks is automatically compromised. It’s said that it’s possible to do two things at once only if they require different sets of cognitive resources. But even when you are driving and listening to an audiobook, your brain starts visualizing what you are hearing. While you might not have much difficulty there because you are an expert driver, you are always taking your chances.
The beauty of life is in enjoying whatever you have at the moment. Try to do that whenever and wherever you can.
Here’s a few things you can do to introduce mono-tasking in your life:
1. Lower the stakes. Do small but specific task for 5 minutes. Because what’s easy? Writing a blog post that will attract 1000 views or making a list of blog posts you want to write?
2. Start a Pomodoro. At least give your task 25 minutes of your undivided attention. Take a small break of 5 minutes and then start another 25-minute Pomodoro.
3. Our brains don’t hate hard work they are just afraid of the idea. When you make the start easy you make the process easier. Hemingway used to leave his sentence midway so he knew where to start the next morning.
4. Introduce systems. Systems help you manage your productivity better. They make the tasks easier and you accomplish more in less time.
5. Introduce mindfulness. I always ask myself why am I working so hard. What’s my motivation? In my case, it’s to enjoy a healthy and fulfilled life with my loved ones and bring some impact in the lives of people around me. This requires me to be present. It requires me to be mindful of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.
Best of luck introducing mono-tasking in your life.
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