From multi-tasking to mindfulness

I used to be a world-class multi-tasker.  I could make phone calls, chop vegetables, feed the dog, and get dressed, all the while checking my emails.  I thought that multi-tasking allowed me to do more in less time.  Not so.

I was lucky enough to find a book that helped me become an EX multi-tasker: Dr. John Medina’s betseller Brain Rules.  Medina, a molecular biologist who studies the human brain, says that multi-tasking is the most ineffective way to work, as the brain (mine, and yours too) needs to transfer focus from one activity to the next.  We humans can’t multi-focus efficiently.

How effective is multi-tasking?  Not much, as attempting anything more complex than chewing gum, walking and breathing slows your brain by 50%, and increases errors by 50%.  Pretty abysmal.  And it’s stressful, too.

Here I was, multi-tasking, frantic and stressed.  The more I multi-tasked in the hope to get more done, the less I felt I was accomplishing anything.  But multi-tasking felt so normal: I was used to the distractions and interruptions, and it made me feel busy, important, and, yes, even powerful.  My focus was 100% for 30 seconds, the time of a TV commercial.  Onto the next.  Multi-tasking was getting in the way of accomplishing, because I was always running into the next task.  I was never fully “here” for more than a few seconds.

I tried something new: no multi-tasking for ONE full day.  This meant no eating and checking my phone while watching the news.  It meant focusing, being mindful on what I was doing in the moment without letting the next task interfere.  It meant allowing myself enough time.

It was hard, challenging and liberating.  Once I allowed myself to really focus, without feeling I had to do something else, I could calm down.  Instead of feeling rushed, 24/7, I could direct time for what I wanted.  I accomplished way more than I had the previous days.  I was feeling internally organized and more in control, and so more relaxed.

Try my NO multi-tasking day: How would YOU live through a day without the instant entertainment of distractions and interruptions?   The world won’t come apart.  And you’ll find yourself less stressed and happier, while accomplishing more.


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