Monotasking is one of those words you hear and quickly dismiss as nonsense. After all, we live in a world where we don’t have time to dedicate 100% of our time to one thing. Right? Multitasking has always been the way to go. But for today’s Freedom Friday post, I want to talk about monotasking vs. multitasking and the benefits of doing one thing and doing it well.
Let’s get some of the definitions out of the way first.
Multitasking: The handling of more than one task at the same time by a single person.
Monotasking: The handling of one task at one time by a single person.
For a long time I’ve been a proponent of multitasking. Who wouldn’t be? The mere definition entices the idea that someone can become twice as productive as, say, performing one task at a time.
But how effective are we when we tackle more than one task at a time? Let’s put it this way, if you have a 24-hour day, it is physically impossible to squeeze 48 hours from it. Experts disagree. Who hasn’t written an email while on the phone? Who hasn’t prepared a post while chatting in a meeting? Who hasn’t checked the sports scores while supposedly researching for their next assignment?
There’s this movement taking place in social circles called Tabless Thursday. It promotes monotasking by encouraging everyone to ditch the tabs in their browsers and work in one window for the entire day. The movement supports one’s ability to produce quality work at the risk of ignoring efficiency.
I’m all up on these interesting trends and for years, I’ve been an efficient multitasker. For instance, I’ve written posts, watched TV and read all at the same time. Don’t ask me if I remember any of it because I’ll tell you the same thing I’ve told my wife when she asks me if I hear her voice while I’m reading an article on the internet. The answer is a resounding no. Oh, I’m sure I was efficient, knocking off tasks from my to-do list as if they were all important, but how good had I produced the work on a scale of 1-10?
Multitasking serves its purpose in an aggressive environment where products have to go out the door quickly. However, monotasking has its purpose, too.
Whenever I have to get something important finished, I now turn off the phone, disconnect the internet, hide my task bar on my laptop, and type furiously at my keyboard until I’m done. It’s amazing how much I can accomplish without interruption.
The other argument for monotasking pertains to the quality of work. This, I can’t judge. I can only go by the reaction of the audience to see if my monotasking ways are effective. All I know is I can get the work done at a faster pace considering I have fewer distractions to keep me from accomplishing my goal.
What are you, a multitasker or a monotasker?
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What do you think of monotasking? How would you go about adding monotasking in your workflow?
21 thoughts on “Monotasking”
I find myself caught in catch-22 at work. They want multiple things done at the same time, but find myself being inaccurate or unproductive in that kind of day. I try to do one thing when I get the chance of a breather, I switch and do something else. Thus allowing me to be productive, accurate but not necessarily am I quickly responsive as they(employer) wishes. But sometimes it must be done.
At home I find myself getting up from my laptop often to concentrate on other things. So Mono-tasking, for the most part.
This was a fantastic post! I’m a multitasker myself but I find I never get Anything done because I have half-finished emails, posts, etc. in different tabs and different applications open at the same time. It’s something I struggle with at work and at home. I like the idea of Tabless Thursday – just keeping one window open at a time. I’m going to try that with my applications (unless they are working together, that is) on my computer. But I do find myself focusing intently on thing at a time when I have One thing open on my computer. This post will help me focus better. Thanks!
I much prefer the monotasking way of life. I have so little attention to begin with, asking it to split between a variety of things usually renders me an unfocused zombie! (Sorry, had to – still true though!)
yesterday I multi-tasked myself into a tail spin
I try to mono-task whenever possible as I feel that my output is far superior than when I multi-task. This goes for everything from listening to my kids to writing a post to driving. This especially goes for listening. I don’t like it when people are doing other things when I’m talking to them so I really try to focus when my kids, husband or students are talking to me. Multi-task listeners usually ask you to repeat yourself…annoying!
Can I just say that I’d never heard of Tabless Thursday before this, but the concept genuinely and thoroughly frightens me?!
I am a big time multitasker, always have been. Even as a kid, I always wanted to play with Play-Doh while watching tv or sing along to the radio while reading a book. It’s hard for me to focus on just one thing at a time. I feel like I’m not doing enough or I get bored. However, because my job forces me to constantly multitask, I’ve noticed that when I’m not at work, I don’t like to multitask anymore. That’s not to say that I don’t still multitask at home, but I can now watch tv without doing the dishes at the same time and not feel guilty about it. Great post!
I can monotask on several levels (which I suppose is almost exactly the same as multitasking). But if you dig a little deeper, my multitasking is actually procrastination. Which you blogged about a while back. As I write this I have 13 tabs open in my browser and Photoshop. I’m supposed to be working in Photoshop, but instead I’m doing all this monotasking/multitasking/procrastination. You can’t win.
I prefer multi-tasking during basic tasks – like watching TV while folding laundry. Tasks that take higher cognitive activity, however, require monotasking. It took me a while to figure out that getting one thing done at a time was more efficient than trying to get five things done at a time.
I’m a mono all the way. Multi stresses me out in the long run.
Ironically, I had to stop reading your post to move clothes around in the laundry room…okay, I am back now and finished your post. Guess that makes me a multitasker. Of late, however, I have tried to monotask more often.
If music plays while I write my novel, it is to mask the background noise. When riding transit to a friend’s place, I try not to read or write but simply observe. And when I take my camera out, my only recollection of my trip is when I am processing the images later that night. (I have missed entire hockey games while photographing those very hockey games.)
When I worked full time in an office, multitasking was the norm…but I did have the luxury of an office with a door and a sign that periodically read “Please ignore the man behind the glass partition and ask someone else for help”.
I now have the luxury of monotasking, and I am lapping that up for all its worth.
I can do both, but prefer monotasking. I complete the project faster, and with better quality, when I dedicate myself to one specific thing. These days I tend to break my day up into small chunks. This way I can dedicate a small chunk to one task, then move on. I keep multiple projects moving forward, but the quality is improved.
You hit the nail on the head. Quality over quantity!
I think there is too much emphasis on multitasking these days; of course it’s an important skill, but it tends to favour quantity over quality. When something requires accuracy, precision and careful thought, then monotasking is your friend.
I can do both, but it takes a lot of focus for me to monotask. Sometimes I need to put on classical music or nature sounds to make it easier for me to direct my thoughts toward one thing. It’s much easier for me to spread my attention over several tasks, keep a list to make sure I don’t miss anything, and work from there. Focusing on one thing is necessary sometimes, but a little boring. 🙂
Ditto on the nature sounds! Love walking through the virtual sonic wilderness while doing something else. Then again, wouldn’t that be considered multitasking? I don’t know. All I know is that I’m productive, and that’s all that matters!
I can’t even figure out HOW to focus lol.
I focus to absurdity. I get into it so much that I block out distractions like my wife’s asking me a question or nagging. I focus so much I should have been an I doctor.
I have a cousin who can multi – task with the best of them. I have a step – sister who is as organized as a tornado. I fall somewhere in between. BUT I am no multi – tasker.
I try to do 1 thing, do it ( reasonably ) well – To paraphrase Maj Charles Emerson Winchester the IIIrd, then I move on.
Kind of a multitasker, but I notice I have the one ‘core’ task like writing and then other minor ones. For example, the TV is on or music is playing while I’m working on my book. So I think a big factor depends on the scale of tasks. One big and a few tiny ones is doable without sacrificing much. Kind of like cooking a dinner while listening to the news.
I try to be a multitasker but fail at it. I tend to start off by doing two things at once but end up getting distracted and finish something completely unrelated. If i really need something to get done i have to focus on only one thing 🙂