Here’s the thing. Monotaskers get shit done.
“Multitasking contributes to the release of stress hormones and adrenaline, which can cause long-term health problems if not controlled, and contributes to the loss of short-term memory” – In her article, The Myth of Multitasking, Christine Rosen was referring to a study by psychologist David Meyer on the effects of multi-tasking on the human brain.
If scientific talk sends you to sleep, let me break it down for you: multitasking stresses us out. Most of us are guilty of it, even when we are trying to relax: tv on in the background, scrolling through our phone while we cook dinner… If we aren’t on at least 2 devices at once, we feel something is missing. I know people whose hands immediately fly to their phone whenever it beeps, even if they are mid-sentence. Even if they are sitting down to dinner. Even if they are entertaining people, mid-sentence, while sitting down to dinner!
Science has spoken, people. And it is backing up the monotasking movement. I, for one, feel hugely relieved. I’ve never been into multitasking. As women we are expected to be good at it. Who knows where that idea came from – perhaps as mothers and homemakers, women were always expected to do several things at once, or they would never get done. It became ingrained in our collective psyche, as if our very womanhood depended on the ability to cook dinner, change a nappy and soothe a crying child all at once… Maybe my feminist imagination is running away with me here.
What I’m trying to say is, the age of multitasking is dead. May it rest in peace forever and never be resurrected to stress us out again. Long live the monotask!
It is easy to slip into multitasking when you have your own business, or run a blog. There is always so much to be done, so many ideas floating around, that you often want to tackle everything at once! The allure of “getting more done” can be so shiny that you frantically open 17 tabs, have 3 documents open at the same time, surround yourself with bits of paper, to-do lists and half-finished cups of coffee, trying to hold it all in your headspace at once. It’s a recipe for disaster.
More and more, people are turning to monotasking, because IT WORKS.
How can it be that seemingly by doing less, you can achieve more? Like this: busy-ness is not the same as business.
You can make yourself busy as a bee, fussing around with several things at once, feeling important. After 2 hours, you will look back and wonder what actually happened in that time. Did you achieve anything tangible? Cross anything off your to-do list? Chances are your brain has been incredibly distracted. Each new email, new piece of paper, instagram alert or tab open in your browser is adding another load of information on top of your frazzled attantion span. It is impossible to pay close attention to several things at once, and foolish to try.
Monotasking funnels all that lost and distracted energy into a laser beam of productivity, directing it at one task at a time. The upshot? You get shit done.
Without further ado! I present to you my Ultimate Monotasking Guide for Bloggers. May you prosper and become unstoppable, climb the ranks of the secret monotasking society and slowly gain world domination. All I ask is that you widely share your secret to success (this guide!) with friends and family, spreading battlecries of productivity in your wake.
Ultimate Monotasking Guide for Bloggers
Clear The Space
Start with your physical workspace. Create more room to breathe by cutting down on the visual clutter that is around you. Remove any excess books, pieces of paper, notepads, etc from your desk or workspace. You want as little visual clutter as possible while you work. If you absolutely MUST have something to physically write on, limit it to ONE notebook and pen. The rest can wait. Why is this important? These objects are distractions. They affect you visually and act as little triggers to send your mind wandering off after other tasks that you might want to get done. It’s like leaving a box of chocolates in front of someone on a diet. They may not have even wanted a chocolate before, but now that the visual reality is staring them in the face, the temptation can be overwhelming! Remove the temptations. Stay on your wholesome diet of monotasking.
Speaking of temptations, put your phone away. If it’s difficult to part with your constant companion, this is an especially helpful task for you. Do you remember the days when NOBODY EVEN OWNED MOBILE PHONES? Yeah. That was a real time. We can all benefit from being a little bit less attached to our phone. If you are working, you don’t need it. Place it somewhere out of eyesight, but still in earshot, like in your bag, or on the other side of the room. Turn off all sound notifications except phone calls (for emergency circumstances) Somewhere you won’t be able to see it is best – out of sight, out of mind.
Before you begin to narrow your focus, take a set amount of time, say 10 minutes, to empty your brain. Write down every little niggly detail that you feel needs your attention right now, or in the near future. This can be anything from new blog post or course ideas, to names of people you want to contact, resources you want to read or new promotion and marketing strategies you want to try. This process helps to get the creative juices flowing if you are feeling stuck for ideas. It lets your brain know that it can relax, not have to hold onto so much information all at once.
At least 3 deep and meaningful breaths. Connect as deeply as possible with yourself. Use the breath to tap into your intuitive nature, your infinite potential. This is the place within your self where your creativity, your passion and your sponteneity come from. Make it a habit to touch bases with your inner self regularly, ideally every day. It is the part of your self that guides your life path. Take the time to listen, to become quiet enough to hear what your inner voice is saying. All it takes is a few breaths.
In yoga, we say that the breath acts as a bridge between our outer and inner worlds. It can take you deeply inside yourself, the definition of “me time.” It is also the gentlest guide to take us back out of states of deep meditation, carrying us back to presence in the physical body. I will leave that for another post. I could talk about pranayama all day.
Now, write down your top 3 priorities for the working day. You can refer to your brain dump here, picking out the most pressing tasks for today. Keep them relevant, achievable and actionable. An example might be: 1: work on new blog post, 2: create image for new blog post, 3: read an article on time management for bloggers. The amazingly clued-in Mariah from Femtrepreneur mentions the 4 pillars of blog management: create, promote, educate and relax. I always keep these aspects in mind when I am planning my day and my current priorities. The ratio of time you spend with each segment will differ depending on what you are focusing on with your blog at any one time. I highly, highly recommend checking out her site for heaps more helpful info on blog management (you can even assign that as part of your education time!)
Here is the most important aspect of monotasking. Focus on one task at a time. When you are writing a post, just write that post. When you are reading an article, just read that article. When you are designing a new course, just focus on designing it. Whatever the task at hand at any time, focus SOLELY on that. Imagine that it is this one task that is the key to unlocking your success, whether you measure that in subscribers, income, traffic or any other means. Focus on that task as if your blog depends upon it. Yes, there may be a million other ideas you could be working on, but they can wait their turn. Right now, only one thing is important and it deserves your full attention. This will take some concentration and mind training at the start. We have been hoodwinked into thinking that we must always be working on several things at once. Our attention spans have shortened so drastically that we constantly crave distraction. No matter what your agitated mind may be telling you, it is not necessary to address every single idea or thought as it floats into your mind. You can allow stray thoughts to cross your mind without having to go running after them. If they are really strokes of genius or important issues, you can add them to your brain dump and then turn back to the task at hand. The more you practice monotasking, the easier it gets. You will become one-pointed, focused, determined. It will strengthen your definiteness of purpose, your dedication and your willpower. Develop these traits and watch you blog grow into a world-famous success story. You will become more and more unstoppable, a force to be reckoned with. It starts with focusing on the task at hand.
Designate a specific time slot for each task. This is not necessarily a time within which to complete, just a time that you are willing to dedicate to that task today. If it is an ongoing project you will be completing it in smaller segments over days or maybe weeks. Anywhere up to an hour is the most I would spend at any one task at a time. When you first get started with monotasking, your brain may find it difficult to sit with one thing for long periods of time. If this is the case you will find it difficult to sit with only one thing for an hour, without checking your phone, without writing a list, without checking emails or any other social media. Start with a manageable time frame. Spend 20 minutes focusing on one thing, take a 3 minute break, then work with something else. As you train your mind to focus on one thing at a time, you will be able to stay longer with each task. Work within your limits and don’t be afraid of stretching your comfort zone. These are just guidelines! Use them in a way that makes your working day easier, not more mind-boggling. Once you’ve completed your time segment, don’t forget to cross it off your checklist and give yourself a high-5! Positive reinforcement works wonders – reward yourself for sticking with it.
Oh yes, breaks are as important as the work itself. Set an alarm if you must. Trust me, it will boost your productivity, lighten your mood, give you more stamina to continue through the day and give your brain a chance to refresh. If you are like me, this will be one of the most difficult stages of the process. I find it so difficult to leave a work-in-progress, especially if I’m in THE ZONE. Having tried both methods – frenzied multi-tasking for hours vs mono-tasking with breaks – I can safely say that the latter works. No matter how painful it may be to drag yourself away from a labour of love, those few precious moments in between help you to claim back your day. Instead of looking back at the day and seeing a blur of time passing, you will be able to pick out moments of serenity. You will notice the sunshine, the gentle breeze, the beauty of the world round you. You will remember all that you achieved today, instead of wondering where all the time disappeared to. I promise the experience is profoundly grounding. Remember why you are doing what you’re doing. Remember to appreciate the stillness between breaths. Remember to be present in your life as well as your work. After each segment of time that you work, take at least 10 minutes to drink a coffee, do some stretches or take a walk and just generally get out of the office! You can also use this time to check in with loved ones, especially those who you don’t see often – even a quick Snapchat will do. Before you know it, you may even look forward to your break times!
It is also important to take serious breaks for meal times, just like you would in an office job. Take the time to make yourself some real food. Nourish your body! Too often we work so intently that we forget to eat, or we grab a bag of chips to eat as we continue to work. Ugh! How often have I done that? I shudder to look back at myself writing my Masters Thesis… If only I knew then what I now know! Key things to remember with meal times: make it wholesome, make it fun and stay away from your screen. You want to make food that is delicious, gives your body energy and have some fun while doing it. Dance in your kitchen with ridiculous music blasting (neighbours permitting of course). Maybe take it al fresco if the sun is shining. Pour yourself a mocktail! Imagine you are making a meal for a loved one – you are! Maybe you think I’m going a bit OTT here, but even lunch can be turned into a self-care ritual. Why not? Life is too short to have boring food, I say.
Finally: when it is time for your working day to be done, let it be done. Home time is home time. Most people have a commute home to transition physically between “work mode” and “relax mode.” As your workspace is located somewhere in your living space, it can be more difficult to distinguish between working and relaxing modes. Define this for yourself in physical and psychological terms. What I mean by that is, create clear physical boundaries for your workspace, and be prepared to leave them when the work day is over. Make a clear line of definition for yourself so that you don’t drift back into working mode. Close the office door, or close down your laptop, have a significant physical motion that signals to your brain that working is finished and it’s time to relax until tomorrow. Maybe you even change your clothes, take a shower or wash your hands. Make it a clearing ritual that is physical as well as symoblic. It is a way of transitioning from one mode into another, triggering a relaxatory response.
Make sure it is the same thing every day, so that you begin to associate relaxation and home time with your ritual (think Pavlov’s dogs). It also helps to make it the same time each day. Have an official home time. It’s a solid way to test your self-discipline and it also draws a clear line in the sand where work time ends and relaxation begins.
Being a self-starter takes determination. It takes perseverance and courage. It calls for self-discipline, more than is required for the average working person. You set your own rules. You create your own schedule. The only limitations are the ones you give yourself, so dream big! In fact, dream huge! Don’t worry about trying to make everything happen all at once. Tackle one thing at a time, with consistency, and you will inevitably succeed.
And that’s the way the cookie crumbles, my friends. That is how you successfully implement monotasking, start to finish as you go through your working day. Let’s sum it up with the 10 steps again:
1. Clear The Space
3. Brain Dump
7. Time Yourself
8. Take Breaks
9. Eat Real Meals
10. Clearing Ritual