The Mono-tasker

The Mono-tasker
[Illustration by Francesco Muzzi]

You sneer at multitabs, loathe push notifications, and grab each task with both hands.

Role model:

Franz Kafka. As a 29-year-old lawyer, he wrote his breakthrough short story, “Das Urteil,” in a single eight-hour session at his desk. “Only in this way can writing be done, only with such coherence, with such a complete opening out of the body and soul,” he said.


Being focused is awesome; succumbing to Sedentary Death Syndrome isn’t. Business strategist and speaker Nilofer Merchant has helped us realize that sitting is killing us. So if you deign to take a meeting, make it a walking one. “Mono-tasking is great for focus and execution,” Merchant says, “but a monoculture isn’t great for coming up with new ideas.”

How to be most effective on email:

Limit your read-and-respond sessions to two or three times a day. That way, says Zen Habits blogger Leo Babauta, emailing becomes a mono-task, rather than a constant, low-level distraction.

Killer app combo:

RescueTime lets you temporarily block websites you deem distracting and alerts you if you’re spending too much time on certain tasks. AwayFind will halt your daily barrage of email notifications–except for ones that include send­ers and keywords you designate as urgent. More apps for the mono-tasker >>

For more productivity tips, go to, and join our ongoing conversation on Twitter at #worksmarter.