The results are in.
Last Wednesday I did the Radical Monotasking 1-Day Challenge. A few folks came along for the ride via Twitter (#MonoTask – hello!) and through Provocateurs. We had a scoring system like golf – score a point each time you find yourself multitasking. (Thanks Shanna Mann for that one.) What I found interesting was just how hard this was. You know, I was aware of the science on multitasking. I knew we’re not designed for it. I knew that when we try to do several things at once, we actually degrade our performance in all of them. I also knew that this would be an exercise in mindfulness and presence. It would be about really doing what I was doing, and not being in the past, or the future, or even just sideways. And I practice mindfulness meditation pretty regularly, and more general mindful awareness every day (or so I thought). So I (hello, ego) thought this would be an interesting little exercise and a bit of fun.
And yes, it was those things. It was also a humbling experience. Because I became aware with VERY STARK CLARITY that I multitask (or task-switch) a whoooole lot more than I had previously realised. The urge to switch between windows on the computer and do lots of things at once did not dissipate as the day went on. Frequently while driving, I would find my hand on the radio dial, ready to switch on the music, before I’d made any kind of conscious decision to do so. I make it a priority to be fully present for conversations with my daughter. But I realised that is mostly for conversations that happen on my timetable. Last Wednesday, I would be fully present for a conversation with my daughter on her timetable for a few moments before getting impatient and trying to sneak back to whatever I’d been doing previously.
I also had a massive fail, because a last minute transport hiccup meant I either had to take a phone call while driving, or have my daughter miss a class she loves. So I took the call. Minus 10 points! I watched her class for an hour and frequently felt the urge to check my phone. So, instead of mindlessly flicking through it, I would decide consciously what I was about to do, then do it, then return to watching her. I did that 2 or 3 times. Which is kind of cheating, I think.
The highlights of the day were tea breaks. Usually when I take a break from desk work, I get a cup of tea and then am back at the desk with it within about 5 minutes, and back to work – not even noticing the tea as it slips down. Or I might take a “real” break and sit at the kitchen table with my tea, scrolling social media on my phone or reading a magazine. These breaks are not particularly restorative. Last Wednesday, each tea break involved making a cup of tea then taking it outside, where I sat in the sun and drank it. Bliss.
And, I was stupendously productive. I knocked so much off my to-do list, it was unbelievable. So – have I locked that in and made radical monotasking a habit? Why, no – no I haven’t. Why is that? Coz people can be their own worst enemies, that’s why.
So, how to get it into the grooves of my brain a little more? I think a regular practice to refocus would be good. Fellow coach Laura Erdman-Luntz is thinking of doing it each Wednesday. I’m considering that too. I think I would amend the rules a little to allow:
- music while doing other tasks
- drinking tea while working (while still mandating at least 2 proper breaks, plus lunch)
- reading a book or magazine (but not computer/phone) while eating – but not all 3 meals of the day.
So, that would mean doing it again tomorrow. OK, yes. I will.
What about you? Did you try it? How’d you go? What do you think of the amended rules – any suggestions or thoughts? Let me know!
[Image by Suat Eman at Free Digital Photos.]