The Only Productivity Hack You Need To Know

How many browser tabs do you have open right now? I’m going to guess that besides this article, you’ve got at least three others,  including Facebook and the work you’re actually meant to be doing. You’re not alone. After all, we’re a society that values multitasking. We tend to wear it as a badge of honour when we’re juggling a million different things.

Turns out, there’s actually a scientific reason we feel so accomplished when we switch between multiple tasks. According to Psychology Today, multitasking activates the reward system in the brains which releases the happy hormone, dopamine. Couple this with our rapidly declining attention spans (thanks, technology!) and it’s no wonder we continue to ‘work’ like this every day.

However, science isn’t exactly on our side when it comes to the effectiveness of multitasking. Research shows that it not only makes us believe we’re accomplishing more than we actually are, it lowers the quality of our work. Plus, scientists believe that constant multitasking can actually cause long-term damage to our brains— reducing our memory and problem-solving abilities.

Multitasking Spongebob

The bottom line is, we all know multitasking isn’t doing us any favours. But we refuse to stop doing it, instead buying into crazy productivity hacks that promise to increase our efficiency by 70%. We end up spending way too much time and money downloading productivity apps we use once then never again — just another form of procrastination! But according to the experts, we’d be far better off keeping it simple by flipping the whole ‘multitasking’ thing on it’s head. Enter, the concept of ‘monotasking.’

What is monotasking?

Monotasking is exactly what it sounds like: the antithesis of multitasking. It involves concentrating on doing one thing (and one thing only) until you’re finished, before moving on to the next. There’s no tricks or complicated techniques, it really is that simple.

The concept has its roots in mindfulness — paying attention to the current moment. But while the goal of mindfulness in the traditional sense is relaxation, monotasking is all about getting sh*t done. By maintaining laser-like focus on each task, you’re able to get more done in a shorter period of time.

Not only that, it can actually make work more enjoyable. This is because you get the same dopamine rush when you tick things off one by one by monotasking. But because you’re not draining your brain’s finite resources by flicking between tasks, you don’t get the same burnout you get with multitasking. Think of it like chugging five espresso shots, without the nasty caffeine comedown a few hours later!

Whether you’re an office worker trying to wow your boss with your robot-like efficiency or a work-from-home freelancer trying to get your work done so you can watch Netflix, monotasking is for everyone. Although it’s pretty straightforward and doesn’t require any special tools, there are a few simple things you can do it make it work for you.

#1 Ditch distractions

Most of the time, we’re not actually multitasking. We’re simply responding to distractions as they pop up — like an email newsletter you don’t remember subscribing to or a Facebook notification because your friend tagged you in a video of a dancing llama.

Unless you have the self-control of a monk, it’s nearly impossible to stay on task when your phone is constantly buzzing. So, do yourself a favour and turn off your notifications — for Facebook, Instagram and any other apps you use. Then, when you’re about to get started on a task, close your email and any tabs you’ve got open.

#2 Consider time-blocking

Monotasking works best when you combine it with time-blocking. That is, designating chunks of time where you’re going to get certain tasks done. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to schedule and colour-code every single minute in your calendar. It could just mean picking an hour or two each day when you’re going to work on your most important tasks, uninterrupted.

While you don’t need any special hacks to monotask, many people swear by the Pomodoro Technique. This is basically like the productivity version of HIIT. Using a timer app like Pomodone, you do 25 minute sprints of uninterrupted work before taking short, time breaks — then repeat!

#3 Schedule breaks

One of the reasons the Pomodoro Technique is so popular is because of the delayed gratification of the breaks. If you must check your phone, you can do it during your designated break — which stops you from doing it while you’re working. Whether or not you decide to integrate this technique, taking regular breaks is an important part of monotasking. Step away from the computer, stretch your legs and return to your work with reinvigorated focus.

Emma Norris is a Sydney-based freelance writer and the owner of copywriting business, Content in the City. When she’s not playing with words, she’s either doing pushups or stuffing her face with pizza. You can follow her on Instagram @emmajnorris92