Monotasking: how to focus your attention

Say goodbye to multitasking and upgrade your productivity. Here's how.
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The concept of monotasking is pretty self-explanatory. It's where you dedicate your full attention to one single task until it's completed – so, the opposite of multitasking. Monotasking is more productive than multitasking because switching between tasks slows you down: on average, it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back in the flow of work after a distraction. So, to get creative or complicated tasks done, you need to dedicate your whole attention to them. Here's how.

1. Identify one task and the time needed.

Get very specific about what task you're going to do. Then decide how much time you want to commit to completing that specific task. Parkinson's Law dictates that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Basically, if you give yourself two hours to complete a task, it'll take that long. Try setting yourself a little bit less time than you think you need.

2. Set the scene.

Set up your space with anything that'll enable you to focus on completing the single task you've set yourself. That could be a glass of ice-cold water, snacks within reachable distance, wearing your coziest hoodie, playing a focused playlist or lighting an aromatic candle. Don't try to skip this step, otherwise your brain will think up excuses to break your focus.

3.  Eliminate distractions.

Yes, that means getting rid of your phone and turning off any notifications you might receive through your laptop (or disconnecting from the internet, if drastic intervention is required). Research shows that simply having your phone nearby is enough to distract and diminish your ability to complete tasks – particularly ones that demand more cognitive function.

4.  Start the clock.

Now that you've set yourself up for distraction-free monotasking, it's time to start the clock. To avoid using your phone, Google Timer and YouTube have plenty of timer options – or you could use a physical clock, watch or sand timer.

Tools. If you still find that you're getting easily distracted and need some accountability, Spacetime Monotasking runs ‘body-doubling’ sessions. In these sessions, you'll work alongside one of the founders, Anna or MJ, in a one-hour sprint or two-hour flow session.

A version of this article was published in the Courier Weekly newsletter. For more useful stories, tips, tricks and simply good advice, sign up here.

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