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Stop Multitasking and Practice Kotsu-Kotsu

Do you ever find yourself answering texts or emails during Zoom meetings? If you do, you’re not the only one.

Multitasking seems like a great way to get more done in less time. But it’s actually undermining your productivity and causing more stress if you do it all the time.

Why? Because humans are just not wired to multitask. 

According to psychology studies at the University of Utah, 98% of people can’t multitask effectively. 

Many cultures are ahead of the game on this. While Americans are all about multitasking, the Japanese actually have a word for doing just the opposite. Focusing on one thing at a time is called “kotsu-kotsu.” 

Are you ready to give up on multitasking and try it out? You should be.

Listen, we all know deep down that multitasking doesn’t really work. Look at texting and driving — it’s a dangerous combination.

Well, so is texting and Zooming. Just in a different way. 

When you’re not devoting your full attention to the task at hand, you’re undermining your ability to bring all your skills to the table. You’re also making it hard for yourself to find joy in your projects.

The science backs me up: It’s time to ditch multitasking. So how can you embrace kotsu-kotsu?

1. Create task-specific time blocks.

Kotsu-kotsu calls for simplifying your routine and not taking on multiple tasks at once. It also means fully focusing on what you’re doing in the present moment.

Doing one thing at a time is the first step to being completely present and prepared to find joy in your work, be more productive, and reduce your stress. 

What does this look like?

Here’s an example: make lunch for eating only. Don’t also catch up on emails! Or if you take a morning walk, enjoy that walk — never schedule a work call for that time or listen to a podcast. 

I know it’s tempting but I’m pushing you to try it. 

Making room for task-specific blocks of time is the first step to incorporating the kotsu-kotsu principle into your routine.

2. Change your mindset.

Taking that phone-free morning walk sounds great, but if you’re preoccupied with what you need to do when you get back to your home office, you’re not practicing kotsu-kotsu.

Be mindful about how you approach each individual task. Are you thinking about all the other things you need to do? Or are you completely devoted to what you’re currently doing?

Being mindful will look like different things for different people. Making lists is one key tool that can help you get into the right mindset.

Figuring out what kinds of lists will serve you best and then staying accountable to those list-making routines will help you declutter your brain and stay focused on the present. 

This is something I talk about in my LinkedIn Learning course, “The Power of Lists to Get Stuff Done.” You can check that out here. 

3. Elevate your space. 

It’s really hard to be present and have a good mindset if you’re working in a messy environment. Having a clean, organized, intentionally-designed home office space is key to making kotsu-kotsu part of your routine.

You also need to have the right tools and tech. A raised computer to minimize neck strain and noise-canceling headphones are two simple ways to upgrade your setup.

I actually have a course on the tools you need to give your work-from-home office a productivity makeover. You can check that out here.

I hope these tips help you think about using kotsu-kotsu in your daily routine. Do you have tips for ditching multitasking? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!