I should start this discussion by noting that I am not 100 percent against multi-tasking. I am in favor of reading a book while waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles and listening to music or a podcast while grocery shopping. These tasks can be considered low-functioning activities because your primary level of productivity is not affected by the presence of a second task.
I am, however, against multi-tasking when doing more higher-functioning activities. Most projects, when worked on in a focused manner, will be completed more quickly when they are the only task in front of you. The fewer interruptions you have, the more efficient your productivity.
Mono-tasking is especially important while organizing. If you decide to overhaul your digital filing system and organize your data, it’s best not to have your instant messaging or email apps tempting you with greetings from friends. One message from a friend can set you back 10 to 20 minutes.
Mono-tasking also is good for making sure that objects are returned to their proper places at the end of an activity. If you take the five minutes to concentrate on putting away belongings immediately after you are finished with them, you will avoid a disorganized living space. Push yourself to finish one project before you start your next endeavor.
I have found that mono-tasking has positive outcomes in areas beyond organization and productivity. If you focus on listening to a person when they are speaking with you, they will feel appreciated and respected. Driving without distractions improves your safety record, and rarely do others complain when you finish what you start.
Try designating your time by a single activity and see how it affects your overall productivity. I’m interested in hearing from you about your experiences with multi- and mono-tasking in the comments section.
This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.