The Secure Methodology™ Step Five: Monotasking

Our lives are filled with tasks, both professionally and personally. How we approach those tasks influences how productive we are and if we complete these things accurately and correctly. In the great task debate, the most talked about are monotasking and multitasking. The latter gets the most attention and is often considered a great skill. However, in most cases, monotasking is the best method for cybersecurity, and you’ll learn why.

As the fifth in this series, this post will provide an overview of monotasking. It complements the previous articles on awarenessmindsetacknowledgment, and communication.

What Is Monotasking, and Why Is It Superior to Multitasking?

As you can guess, it’s the opposite of multitasking! Monotasking describes focusing on one thing at a time to achieve more. Somehow, concentrating on the task at hand seemed to correlate to not being able to work in a fast-paced environment or juggle many priorities. Job descriptions for cyber professionals even list multitasking as a desired skill.

I’m here to tell you that this is the wrong way to think about cybersecurity, productivity, and relationships. Multitasking doesn’t have the value the world assigns to it because many things get screwed up when we try to do too many at a time. When multitasking, our brains must compartmentalize and deal with distractions. Ultimately, multitasking quickly leads to mistakes, disengagement, and burnout.

We Weren’t Born to Be Multitaskers

Even though multitasking is a praised attribute, the facts are that humans weren’t built for it. Our brains, even though highly evolved, can’t process multiple emotions simultaneously. You can switch back and forth, but simultaneous isn’t an option. When you multitask, your brain has to change constantly and reset.

Why “Forced” Multitasking Hurts Cybersecurity

The expectation of multitasking in cybersecurity is rampant. There’s an air of toxic positivity around it, with the misbelief that those who can do this get more done and can handle such a dynamic field. The reality is that it messes up the flow of work so that many don’t get much completed. It also brings out anxiety in workers, which hurts the team and themselves.

Anxiety is a normal part of the human condition, but multitasking exacerbates this to the point that technical folks always feel on edge. They are in cycles of fight or flight. As a result, they can’t focus on the clear mission — to protect data and networks. Things are stressful enough in cybersecurity, and multitasking makes it worse.

In addition to more anxiety, workers aren’t present because their minds are going through a million things. If the mind is fragmented, we can’t be present for the conversation or task at hand. It also impedes collaboration, which is a fundamental necessity for any cyber team. Multitaskers don’t actively listen, so communication stalls and risk increases.

Anxiety plus not being present further leads to quality issues in work. When you multitask, your brain combines information subconsciously, so things can get mixed up. That will impact the quality of everything the person does, from sending an email to monitoring the network. Mistakes and errors become more prevalent, and this distraction is a ripe opportunity for cybercriminals.

If multitasking is bad for cybersecurity, then monotasking must be the answer. I wasn’t always so convinced.

Accepting Monotasking

When I first began to learn about monotasking and its value, I was apprehensive but willing to try a new approach. I needed to be more productive and efficient, but I first had to unlearn multitasking, which is hard because it’s ingrained in us. Once I embraced monotasking, I had a clear vision of the destruction of multitasking in cybersecurity, which is why monotasking is part of the Secure Methodology.

Working toward being a monotasker means you have to unlearn multitasking behaviors. It may seem impossible for you and your team to make this adjustment. It’s not easy, but it can deliver many benefits for the company and its employees. So, how do you counteract this conditioning and build a bridge to monotasking as the standard?

Adapting to Monotasking: Tips and Techniques

If you realize that monotasking is the pivot you need to take for your cyber team, you’ll need strategies in hand to make the turn. As part of the monotasking step in my book, The Smartest Person in the Room, I lay out some tips and techniques to use. Here’s a glimpse at some of those.

Distraction-Free Meetings

Whether meetings are in-person or virtual, you should set the tone by requiring these to be device-free zones. In such a space, your team can collaboratively focus on the issue or project at hand. You need your team to be present in these meetings because you’re all trying to solve a problem. You need their full attention in these matters, and you won’t get that if they are checking email or scrolling.

Blocked Time for Specific Tasks

Another great monotasking tactic is to practice and recommend blocked time. It includes setting up specific times on your calendar to do one thing, such as reviewing and responding to emails or calls. Block this time as you would for a meeting so that it shows that you’re busy during that time.

You should also use this method for project work so you have dedicated time to focus on something complex with many moving parts. Having a daily agenda of monotasking helps you prioritize what you need to accomplish and divvy up time for each item on the list.

Once you do this for a while, you’ll better understand the time required to dedicate to blocked time tasks. As a result, you can plan more accurately and be more productive. You’ll be surprised at how this approach can reduce anxiety, enable you to be present, and improve the quality of work.

Figuring Out Why You Feel the Need to Respond Now

Another exercise for moving toward monotasking is determining why you need to respond to chat or email immediately. Emergencies will happen, and you’ll have to deal with them straight away, but most emails can wait.

Understanding the intention behind any behavior helps you break the habit. Whatever the “why” is for you, acknowledge it and then move forward to change your actions.

Saying “No” Is Okay

People often multitask because they have competing priorities that need their attention to meet a due date or urgent need. You can’t say no to all these, as some could be true emergencies. Other things you can say no to right then but pick up later after you finish what you need to do.

You’ve been taught to say yes to everything, but you don’t have to take on more tasks than you can handle. It’s okay to say no based on what your workload already is. You want to show your team that the environment is not one where you don’t have a say in your agenda. Explain to them that pushing back is an acceptable response. You’d rather have them focus on completing one thing than hopping all around and getting nothing done.

Deep Focus Outperforms the Multitasking

In the pursuit of creating a monotasking culture, you will get lots of pushback. Many think that multitasking is a superpower. They believe it’s part of their identity and will not want to change. However, the steps in the Secure Methodology before monotasking can set the stage for this as people evolve to a growth mindset and become better communicators. So, this behavioral shift isn’t on shaky ground.

Multitasking can be a badge of honor, especially for those who want to be the smartest person in the room. They equate smart with being able to do many things at once. Unfortunately, multitasking doesn’t deliver these kinds of results. Deep focus does.

When someone can apply deep focus to a task without all the noise and clutter, they are more productive and effective. Tension drops, and they no longer have to be in that fight-or-flight mode. Of course, getting buy-in on deep focus will take convincing and illustration. I include specific exercises in the book to support this. In addition, talking about monotasking and its benefits through anecdotes will make it more tangible.

Monotasking Should Be a Cybersecurity Pillar

I’d like to see the day that a cyber job description included monotasking as a skill versus its cousin, multitasking. It should be a core pillar of cybersecurity in every organization. It’s, perhaps, a radical idea right now, but one with data and research to support it.

Can you turn your team into monotaskers? It will require disruption to their beliefs about work and productivity. Change is hard no matter how beneficial, but if you’ve proceeded through the Secure Methodology’s first four steps, you’ll have a strong foundation.

You can learn more about the Secure Methodology and monotasking by reading my bookThe Smartest Person in the Room.

The Secure Methodology™ and Cybersecurity Leadership

7 Step Secure Methodology - Christian EspinosaThe advent of technology makes it easier for us to communicate with our staff and improve our business processes. However, it can also be a major risk to our organization: Hackers are lurking in every corner, waiting for the right time to steal information from us.

We need to strengthen the skills of our technical staff by utilizing The Secure Methodology. Through The Secure Methodology, we can help our staff improve their communication skills and encourage them to lead with their hearts and intuition, rather than just their logical minds.

Generally speaking, The Secure Methodology is a step-by-step guide designed to help us improve interpersonal skills so we can easily practice honest and effective communication. The Secure Methodology also promotes more in-depth understanding, allowing every person in the organization to be on the same page and work together towards a common goal, such as stopping cybercrime.

Benefits of the Secure Methodology

Cybercrimes are common worldwide, which is why it’s important for organizations to take preventive measures. The common strategies used by organizations today aren’t flawless as the number of cybercrimes continues to increase worldwide.

The Secure Methodology is different from other existing strategies because it leads us to better results, that do not require more investments in technologies or cybersecurity frameworks. Here are a few of the benefits:

  • Better security: By practicing the seven steps of The Secure Methodology, we’ll have peace of mind knowing that our organization and all our trade secrets are less vulnerable to cybercrimes. The Secure Methodology provides for a better understanding and mitigation of risks to protect our organization from hackers worldwide.
  • Cost reduction: Losing vital information will cost money from our pocket. How can we continue producing products if our trade secrets were stolen? How can customers trust us if their information is at the hands of hackers? When we practice The Secure Methodology in our organization, we reduce costs associated with cybercrimes. Instead of spending money to minimize the effects of cybercrime on our organization, we can use it for other areas that can help our business improve and grow.
  • Develop total intelligence: One of the biggest benefits of The Secure Methodology is helping leaders in the organization develop and lead with total intelligence. Through The Secure Methodology, we can learn to lead using our people skills, as well as our hearts, logic, and intuition. Being able to use different types of intelligence will make us better leaders and more equipped to combat cybercrimes.

The Secure Methodology isn’t just about helping our technical team prevent cybercrimes; it also teaches us different strategies to help improve ourselves and our organization in the long run.

Why the Secure Methodology Was Written

The Secure Methodology was written as an attempt to improve teamwork and cybersecurity in an organization. Yes, there are countless techniques that are meant to help organizations fight against cybercrimes, but not all of these are effective. In fact, looking at the cybersecurity status quo, we see that cybercrimes continue to affect organizations regardless of the size and nature of their business.

The Secure Methodology reinvents how organizations improve and also protect themselves from cybercrimes. Instead of merely using logic and intelligence in combating cybercrimes, the Secure Methodology aims to beat cyber criminals by developing the holistic skills of the staff and by using logic, emotion, and instinct equally.

Moreover, the Secure Methodology helps leaders get their technical people to strengthen their people skills and encourage them to lead with their hearts and instincts. Once we can accomplish these goals, we can quickly improve communication skills, making it easier for the organization to discuss issues and fix them as soon as possible.

The Secure Methodology allows leaders to know where their people are coming from and what kind of help their staff needs when issues arise. When we know what the world looks like from their perspective, we can provide solutions that address the root cause of the problem.

Overview of The Secure Methodology 7 Steps

1.    Awareness

Awareness has two aspects: self-awareness and the awareness of others. As the name suggests, self-awareness is about understanding our behavior or the behavior we can control. Even as a single human being, we should keep in mind that we impact the world around us, which is why we should be mindful of how we interact within it. For example, how, when, and where we frown or smile can significantly impact someone, and we should be aware of it.

Technical individuals and humans in general struggle with self-awareness because we often fill our lives with stimuli, namely social media and games. This removes the time needed to reflect on our actions. Leaders like us also face the same dilemma: we might show up in a meeting in a negative mood, not thinking how this demeanor can impact our staff and their progress during the day.

Being aware of others is also an important part of the Secure Methodology. When we’re only aware of our own actions, we’re not only being self-centered; we are also not helping solve problems in the organization.

For example, if we see a staff member crying at her desk, it’s best to ask her how she’s feeling instead of making an assumption. Making assumptions and being unaware of others’ emotions will likely make us angry and confrontational, making the situation worse.

2.    Mindset

There are also two types of mindset often exhibited by staff in an organization: growth and fixed. Individuals with a fixed mindset believe things are the way they are, and they’re no longer capable of changing. For example, technical staff with a fixed mindset in an organization may often claim, “I’m not very good with people.”

Conversely, someone with a growth mindset will say, “I understand I have challenges working with people, but I’m confident that I can get better.” With a growth mindset, a person understands what they’re struggling with and is open to learn and make changes.

3.    Acknowledgment

Acknowledgment in The Secure Methodology covers a lot of items. For starters, we should encourage our technical staff to focus on self-acknowledgment. Instead of letting them think that they’re not good enough, we should encourage them to acknowledge that their skills are vital to the organization.

Acknowledgment is also important for leaders like us. When we want our technical team to improve their behavior at work, we should acknowledge everything that they have accomplished in the past and let them see what they can do if they gain more skills. This will prevent them from shutting down and motivate them to change.

4.    Communication

Communication is about how we interact with our staff and the type of language we use. In short, communication isn’t just about the words we use; it’s also about our body language and tone. We also need to keep in mind that the meaning of communication is the response you get.

It’s common for technical staff to miss out on body language or tone and only focus on the words being communicated to them. This is problematic and often leads to issues when communicating within the organization. As leaders, we should help our technical staff understand different communication patterns and body language displayed by the speaker. We also need to train our team to listen better, rather than just waiting for a gap in the conversation to speak.

5.    Monotasking

Technical staff in an organization have to accomplish different tasks regularly, but this doesn’t mean they should do everything in one sitting. Multitasking has been hyped for so long, yet following this concept at work doesn’t guarantee better or more outcomes. In some cases, attempting to take on several tasks at one time will only result in anxiety and many unfinished projects.

As part of The Secure Methodology, we should highlight to our technical staff the importance of working with one task at a time. When technical staff practice monotasking, they can easily produce quality work because their focus is poured into one task only.

Monotasking also helps with communication, because if you are monotasking during a conversation, you are present and listening better.

6.    Empathy

It’s common for technical people to think that they’re the only individuals in the organization with problems, and everyone else has it easy. However, this kind of mindset is self-centered and somewhat narcissistic, which can only lead to bigger problems when left untreated.

When our technical staff is self-absorbed, they’re at greater risks of developing depression. Their lack of connection to other people will also make it very challenging for them to collaborate in problem-solving.

For The Secure Methodology to work in our organization, there should be empathy across all levels. Our technical staff shouldn’t jump to conclusions immediately. Sure, their role in the organization is challenging, but this doesn’t automatically mean that the other staff has easier roles to play.

As leaders, we should teach our technical staff the importance of empathy by helping them understand that other people also have different challenges and that they shouldn’t quickly judge others because they have different situations.

7.    Kaizen

Kaizen is a term that means “change for the better,” which is the ultimate goal of The Secure Methodology. If we want to improve our organization’s cybersecurity, we should establish a new process and examine it continuously. Constant and never-ending improvement (CANI) are essential ingredients in achieving goals, no matter how big or small.

Key Takeaway for Each Step

  1. Awareness means we should be conscious of other people’s behaviors and why they behave in a certain way, just like how we want other people to be conscious of how we are.
  2. Without the right mindset, it’s challenging for any of our staff to change and grow. As a leader, we should believe that every single person in our organization has the capability to change. It is also our responsibility as leaders to remain committed to change. Change doesn’t happen overnight; we must also have the right mindset to commit to change.
  3. We should acknowledge our technical team every time they make the slightest progress in their behavior at work. This will encourage them to permanently adapt to positive behavior and grow more in their field of expertise.
  4. Communication plays a vital role in the relationship of every staff member in an organization, which is why we should ensure everyone regularly practices open and honest communication. Aside from making sure that everyone is provided with various communication channels, we should also teach the importance of tone and body language and how this can help us understand the speaker better.
  5. Most technical staff don’t know how to monotask, and it is up to us as leaders to change that behavior. When our technical staff focuses on one task at a time, they can produce more and better output during the day. Knowing how to monotask is also an excellent way for our technical staff to look after their mental health as they can keep anxiety and stress at bay.
  6. Every individual in the organization deals with some type of challenge. Instead of judging others based on their behavior, we should put ourselves in their shoes and understand where that person is coming from. When everyone in the organization knows how to empathize, the team generates better results.
  7. When our organization tries something new, say improving our cybersecurity, we can’t expect to succeed during the first, second, or even third try. Kaizen is the understanding of this process and the encouragement to continue trying. To get desirable results from our efforts, we need to practice regularly and not just dabble.

Short Activity for Each Step

  1. One activity to broaden the awareness of our technical staff is to let them reflect on what happened to them on the previous day and instruct them to imagine themselves as if that were their last day on earth. When they know they have limited time to live, they would likely treat others the way they want to be treated.
  2. Keeping a journal is a great way to develop a growth mindset within our team. We can encourage our team to journal every day for a month about the things they’re grateful for and the things they’ve learned. After 30 days, we can meet as a group and then discuss how everyone has grown in a month.
  3. One simple way to acknowledge the progress made by the team is to keep a cookie jar filled with notes about their accomplishments at work. When anyone in the team feels discouraged or hopeless, they can easily get notes from the cookie jar to remind them of what they’ve accomplished in the past and what they can do if they continue to strive.
  4. To improve communication within the team, teach them the fun NLP eye pattern trick. The eyes are the closest organs to the brain, and where a person “looks” (whether to the right or left) when they’re trying to access information can determine if they’re lying. Check out this diagram.
  5. Dividing our team’s day into time blocks will allow everyone to work on things that matter the most. We can simply let them list down the tasks they have during the day and arrange them on time blocks so they’ll know what to work on during a specific timeframe within the day.
  6. One activity to teach our technical team empathy is to have them pair up and have each person make assumptions of the other and then have them discuss their similarities. This activity will help our technical team stop making assumptions about others and encourage them to look for similarities. This will eventually help them develop their empathy.
  7. Kaizen focuses on reflection and never-ending growth, so we can have our technical team keep a workday reflection journal to write down their challenge or win during the day for a week. Then, we can schedule one-on-one meetings with them to discuss what they wrote in their journals and discuss how we can improve their weaknesses or challenges.

For anyone who is interested to learn more about the Secure Methodology, you can get the book or enroll under its program.

Check Out The Smartest Person in The Roomv

Monotasking vs. Multitasking

monotasking vs multitaskingHow we take on tasks significantly influences our productivity during the day. Even when given a minor task, a person will likely have difficulty completing it if they’re using the wrong techniques and not utilizing their available resources.

Monotasking and multitasking are two of the most common techniques people use in completing tasks. Many of us still use both methods, but one is better than the other.

What Is Monotasking?

Monotasking or single-tasking is the process of dedicating oneself to one given task at a time. Monotasking contrasts with multitasking because we won’t have to attempt to take on multiple tasks at once. Monotasking is about doing less to achieve more.

It’s common for people to multitask, but our minds and bodies can’t multitask effectively. During the 1960s, multitasking became popular, as an IBM report talked about the many capabilities of its latest computer. Today, more and more people claim that they’re good at multitasking and are proud of being busy with various things rather than being great at one.

Although not a familiar term to many, we should strive to monotask rather than multitask. Monotasking allows us to boost our productivity because we’ll accomplish a specific task before proceeding to another. Since we’re not too distracted by many things, monotasking can also improve communication, as we can be present at the moment and effectively listen whenever other people are talking.

Monotasking is still new for many of us, but we can gradually incorporate this practice into our daily routine by following these steps.

1.  Locate Peak Performance Time

All of us function differently throughout the day. While some of us work better in the morning, others are more productive at night. Some can also work straight for eight hours, while others prefer taking frequent breaks during the day.

For us to practice monotasking, we should first locate our peak performance time. Once we’re able to identify peak performance time, we should use time blocking, as suggested in my book “The Smartest Person in the Room.”

Time blocking is an essential ingredient in monotasking, as this enables us to unleash our creativity and makes it easier for us to do some deep work. We should guard this period for us to accomplish even the most complex tasks scheduled for that day.

2. Eliminate Distractions

It’ll be challenging for us to monotask if distractions are present everywhere. Regardless of how committed we are to finishing one task at a given time, we won’t accomplish anything if distractions prevent us from getting any work done.

You can start by removing distractions present in your working environment, like clutter and loud noises. These are the most common distractions that prevent us from working. We’ll be too stressed thinking about getting rid of clutter or wondering when the noises will end instead of focusing our energy on the tasks at hand.

Aside from the distractions present in the environment, you should also remove distractions in your mind. Instead of attempting to finish ten tasks in one day, focus on two critical tasks that will have the most significant impact on that day. This practice takes your attention away from items that are only important on the surface and allows you to focus more on tasks that matter.

3. Use the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that requires you to take a five-minute break after working for 25 minutes. Following this technique is an excellent way to monotask because it maintains motivation, manages distractions, and increases accountability.

To effectively follow the Pomodoro Technique, we should maximize our breaks to get our body moving by doing some yoga poses, drinking a cup of tea, or walking around the house. Doing any of these will allow our minds and bodies to relax, preparing us for another deep work session.

The Pomodoro Technique will make it easier for us to monotask because the idea of working for 25 minutes will create a sense of urgency that will encourage us to stay focused. Moreover, the concept of having breaks after being productive for 25 minutes can also be a great reward.

What Is Multitasking?

Almost everyone knows what multitasking is; it’s the practice of doing several tasks at once. People who want to do more during the day often multitask, but this practice can actually do more harm than good. According to studies, multitasking reduces the brain’s cognitive control and decreases motivation in the long run.

Aside from this, multitasking is also known to decrease our focus and learning, impair our memory, and increase stress levels. Multitasking can also increase our risks of depression and anxiety, as our brains try too hard to juggle many things at once when it’s naturally programmed to focus on one task at a time.

Multitasking can harm our minds and bodies, which is why we should exert time and effort to get out of this unhealthy habit and start monotasking.

The following tips can help us stop multitasking and transition to monotasking easier.

1. Turn Off Notifications

Having access to the internet has improved our lives, but too much use can have adverse effects on our productivity. This is especially true if we allow ourselves to be distracted by email and social media notifications whenever we start working on a task.

An easy hack for us to prevent multitasking is to turn off notifications irrelevant to our tasks. This enables us to focus more on our tasks because we won’t have any reason to check our devices every ten minutes when we’re working.

Even if we’re going to follow the Pomodoro Technique and take breaks regularly, we should avoid checking our devices because this will make it harder for us to regain our focus after our breaks.

2. Make a Prioritized To-Do List

Thinking about the number of tasks we have for the day can put our brain in a stressed condition. When this happens, we attempt to finish as many tasks as possible, thinking that this will keep the stress at bay. However, this cycle only causes us to multitask and prevent us from completing anything during the day.

For us to finally get rid of multitasking, we should make a to-do list and order the tasks based on priority. We should sort the to-do lists in terms of “must” or the tasks that have to be completed during the day, and the rest are tasks that can wait if we don’t have enough time.

Making and sticking to a to-do list will free up our brain space and allow us to focus on one task at a time. A to-do list will also help us stay calm when working, making it easier for us to remain productive.

3. Be Prepared to Say “No”

One of the reasons why we end up multitasking is because we accept tasks that we don’t have time for. If our boss wants to get some things done, it’s common for us to volunteer without even checking our schedules for the day.

We can prevent multitasking moving forward by learning to say “no” to additional tasks. If we have too many things on our plate for the day, we should politely decline any more assignments so that we’ll have more time to focus on our pending tasks.

Adapt to Change

A lot of us still multitask, thinking that we can accomplish more in less time. However, this is rarely a guarantee because multitasking requires us to jump from one task to another, resulting in stress and unfinished projects. Multitasking is a common practice, but this doesn’t mean that we should continue doing it.

To stay productive every day, we should apply monotasking and plan our day with intention. Learn more about monotasking and the 7 Step Secure Methodology in my book, “The Smartest Person in the Room,” available on Amazon.

Check Out The Smartest Person in The Room

How to Get More Time in Your Day Without Waking Up Earlier

cybersecurity certificationsThis blog post is a transcription from the video at the bottom of the post.

How to get more time in your day without waking up earlier. In this post, we’ll cover three tips to make you more productive, to give you back more time in your day without having to cut into your sleep. I’m Christian Espinosa. I’m the CEO of a company. I do Ironman triathlons. I climb mountains. I travel a lot. So productivity is extremely important to me and I’m constantly striving to become more productive. I’ve learned these three techniques over my lifespan and that’s what I’m sharing with you today. So number one is monotasking. We live in this world where everyone thinks it’s normal to multitask, but multitasking is inefficient. There are many studies that show it’s inefficient.

So you should be monotasking, which means you’re focused on one thing, 100% focused on one thing at a time. This way you can get one thing done before you move on to another one or make significant headway on one task before you move on to another one. Your brain can’t really focus on two things at once. Hence, monotasking. The second thing is time blocks. Some people call it block time. You should set your day up so you have blocks of activities scheduled and each of these blocks is set up where you monotask on a specific project or activity for that block of time. Then between each block of time, which is the third thing, you have active breaks. It’s too easy to just sit at your computer or at a job for hours at a time.

But what happens after roughly 50 minutes is your focus starts to wander and you’re less effective. Even if you’re monotasking, you still need a break every 50-60 minutes or so.

time block example - christian espinosa
Time Block Example

Here’s an example of some time blocks:

  • Time Block 1: Between 7:00 am and 8:00 am, you do email. This is a time block with monotasking. You only do email between 7:00 and 8:00 in the morning. That’s it. What most people do is they’ll start a project, and while they’re working on the project, they’ll answer emails, answer text messages, answer the phone, and they make zero progress on the project. So only do email on this time block, and this is just a suggestion. You can do it however you want to
  • Active Break: Then between 8:00 am and  8:10 am, you notice I have a 10-minute break between these two, that 10 minutes is where you take the active break. You do something like get up, walk around, maybe do some pushups, whatever you want to do to get the blood flowing because we sit for too long in front of the computer most of the time.
  • Time Block 2: Then the next period of time block or block of time, I have project one. So I only work on project one during this time block. I don’t do email. I don’t answer the phone. Only project one.
  • Active Break: Next time block I have a break between them. I do something active, walk around, go for a walk, go outside.

Then I do personal development, as the example, then another break, then project two. Some people say, “Well, I’ve got a lot of work to do on a specific project.” That’s okay. You set up two blocks of time for that project, but make sure you take that 10-minute break between the two so you don’t start zoning out or getting distracted or losing your focus. That’s where the active break comes into play. Even if it’s as simple as going outside for a short walk, that will help get the blood flowing and often clear your head, and then you come back with a fresh perspective and can often make more progress on that particular project. So the three things to get a quick review, monotasking, time blocks, and active breaks.

I hope you found these three tips useful. Good luck with your productivity. Take care.

The Value of Monotasking – What Jesse Itzler and Rainbow Taught Me

Below is the transcription of the video – “Jesse Itzler’s Living with the Monks – Rainbow Helped Me Reclaim My Agenda”

Have you ever started your day off with the best intentions to get a lot done, to make a lot of progress on your goals, then the whole day goes by and you look back on the day and you realize that you didn’t make much progress at all on any of those projects or any of those goals you want to accomplish? In the book, Living With The Monks by Jesse Itzler, he talks about the distractor and distractions, and it’s really what has caused your whole day to slip by as you’ve allowed distractions to come into your day. And, you’ve lacked focus.

Jesse Itzler wrote the book Living With The Monks based on his experience of living with the monks of New Skete, which are these monks that train German shepherds who live with them for 21 days. One of the chapters that always sort of sticks out in my mind is this chapter called The Distractor. The monks train these German shepherds and they trained them in a way that they had to be very focused. And one of Jesse’s task, while he lived with the monks, was to help them train these dogs. But the way he helped them train them in this particular scenario in this chapter was the dogs were supposed to keep focused on their task. And Jesse’s job was to try to distract the dog and get the dog to lose focus.

So as this monk is walking the dog through this training center, Jesse’s going around making faces at it, waving at it, doing the fart trick, and doing all these things to distract the dog. But the dog never loses focus. And that dog’s name was Rainbow. Rainbow never lost focus. And what Jesse wrote about this is in our modern society, we tend to lose focus very easily. There are so many distractions out there and the distractions are really killing your productivity. You may be very busy during the day, but you have to ask yourself how productive are you? And it’s important that if you want to get something done, that you’re like that dog Rainbow and you focus on the task.

It’s critical to cut away as many distractions as possible and stay focused. And with me, I’ve had a little bit of a struggle with this because some of the distractors are people texting you, people calling you, people emailing you. So you kind of feel like you might be rude by not responding to these people, but they’re demanding your time and taking away from you accomplishing something that may have a larger impact than an immediate response to a text message. And the lack of focus also reminds me of when I was climbing this mountain, Mount Elbrus in Russia. It’s the highest mountain in Europe.

There was a time where I lacked focus and it almost cost me my life. Really. So I was climbing this mountain and with mountaineering, and this is what I like about mountaineering, it’s very challenging mentally and physically because you don’t have much oxygen because you’re at 18,000 feet or whatever. You’ve got a lot of gear. You’ve got the elements of cold. You’ve got a lot of skills you have to learn with ropes and you have all these things to consider. And it’s a long day, typically. Sometimes it’s a 20 hour day. So on this particular day, we were climbing up to the top of Mount Elbrus. You have to kick in these steps on the side of the mountain. So you have a platform in the snow to basically put each foot. And you have to kick pretty hard. So your foot has a solid platform. And then you kick in, you have one platform for your foot, you kick in the next one, you have another platform, you kick in the platform, et cetera.

With mountaineering and this particular climb, I was getting a little bit exhausted. So my focus was wandering a little bit. And I started thinking about other things rather than what I was doing, which was kicking these steps. So one of the steps I didn’t kick in enough and my footing slipped. I started like sliding down the mountain… And I was backward. I was sliding backward on my back and I was accelerating and I kind of snapped out of them and thought, “Man, I’m accelerating, I’m sliding down this mountain. I need to stop myself.” And they teach you to do a self-arrest with mountaineering. So I was able to like flip over, take my ice ax and drive it into the snow and drive my crampons into the snow and like stop myself from sliding down to the bottom of the mountain.

But if I didn’t stop myself, I would have kept sliding and hit something and died probably. But the whole reason I slid down a mountain is I lost focus. I allowed myself to get distracted by some of the thought that crept into my mind. It’s critical with anything you want to do in life to remain focused and cut away a lot of the things that are distracting you and not feel guilty. If you’re trying to accomplish something… And this is the problem is a lot of people have. If you’re trying to accomplish something big that requires your focus, you should not feel guilty about ignoring that text message, not responding to that email, not responding to that phone call. You can get to those later when you have time, but you don’t need to be immediately responding to everything.

With me, like climbing the mountain, I got distracted. I fell down, but I have been able to focus a lot and that’s allowed me to accomplish… I can easily get a cybersecurity certification or do a lot of things in a short amount of time because I 100% focused on that. I cut out the distractions. And as I mentioned, I used to feel a little bit guilty about cutting out the distractions because people will demand a lot of attention from you and they’ll suck the life out of you. So you have to put up some barriers in order to accomplish what you’re trying to accomplish.