Texting and Riding Bike
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I'm spending some time with family for the holidays this week and it's amazing how little we get done. I'm not even talking about work. I'm talking about regular every day things like finishing a card game. Everyone's playing on their smartphones, tablets, laptops, or otherwise multitasking. It doesn't seem like a single person is paying attention to what they're doing.

I love my family and I'm not saying this to rip on them. I think this is one of the big issues my generation will face. There's information coming in at us in every direction and it's hard to not want to try to consume it. One of the issues my generation has to face is trying to squeeze every drop of productivity out of each moment. I'm all for being productive but when you multitask you don't multiply your focus you fracture it. This is why I'm in favor of monotasking and completely finishing one task before moving onto the next one.

Pay Attention to What You're Doing

Yes I'm sure we all can play a game of Words With Friends while talking to someone else but what does it get you? What is the advantage? We think we can be more productive by multitasking but we don't think about the consequences. I like being able to have deep intellectual conversations and I also like to play a good game but you can't do both at the same time. If you try you end up with a mediocre conversation and a mediocre game.

Think about it. When you're walking down the street and eating do you focus just as much on the walking as when you're just walking? Do you focus on the food like when you're just eating? No of course not. You have moments where you focus on one or the other but you're always missing elements from both. You wont get the same experience as if you were to do the two separately.


I'm trying to work on monotasking instead of multitasking. It's honestly a work in progress but with each step towards monotasking I become much happier and more efficient. Here's a few things I do:

  • Check email when you know you have email. If it's a Monday morning and you know you have email great check away but do it in a way that's productive. You don't get much productivity out of scrolling through your emails on your phone so don't bother. Set aside some time during the day and destroy that inbox when you have access to all of the information you need. In the meantime enjoy the bus ride to work or finish up what you're doing on the toilet. No need to multitask there.
  • Minimize other communication channels. It's really easy to want to text and talk at the same time but I have yet to see a real advantage for it. I hate missing things in conversations and if I'm thinking up some witty response (ok that's a lie I'm not very witty) to a text message I'm going to miss the occasional word or sentence from our conversation. When I'm deep into one task I shut down other communication channels. Maybe not entirely but I'll at least put them out of sight.

So far these little tricks have helped me quite a bit. I'm a big fan of monotasking and I'm sure as I get more into it I'll refine these.

Photo Credit: moriza via Compfight cc

4 thoughts on “Monotasking

  1. This is sooooooooooo difficult. There are those little breaks in conversation or activity and that’s when the urge to pull out your phone strike. I tried to take the day off of Twitter yesterday but failed completely. I still had a memorable and restful time with my family, but lost a little bit of intentionality.

    • I hear you Daniel. I find it especially challenging as well but when I get close to monotasking I have a very productive day (at work) and I’m very happy (when spending time with friends).

  2. turn off the soundtrack! 😉 oh, and hey, i’m typing and drinking coffee and shivering next to a heater all at the same time. but seriously, i hear you and agree. it is contrary to mom training: we’ve been conditioned to do more more more. doing one thing at a time is a practice in mindfulness, for sure!

  3. I’m so impressed! I just assumed that your generation had been lost already but i see that there are little flashes of light on the horizon.

    The questions I would like to put to Daniel are, ” what do you remember of the moments when you couldn’t resist puling your phone out of your pocket?”
    Was it anything really worth knowing?

    Multi tasking seems to me to be actually a bit rude, if your attention isn’t focussed on the people you are with.

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