Trade in Multitasking for Mindfulness
Do you often find yourself doing two or more things at once? Maybe you respond to emails during meetings at work. Or maybe you talk on the phone while you’re running errands. Sometimes it seems like multitasking is the only way to get everything done. I know I’m guilty of it myself. But multitasking has some drawbacks.
When you multitask, your brain has to switch back and forth between tasks. This can make it hard to retain information. And it’s all too easy to get distracted. You may not do as well on the tasks you’re trying to do as you would have if you had done them one at a time. That means you may actually make more work for yourself if you try to do too much at once.
Plus, multitasking may be more draining, mentally and physically. If you thought it would be easier on you to do a few tasks at the same time, think again. You may be wearing yourself out faster.
So if multitasking is your usual method of getting things done, why not try something new? Instead of racing to do 10 things at once, try to focus on one thing at a time. If you need some help, try practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation. When practicing mindfulness, you are aware of all that is happening in the present moment. You focus on what is going on around you in the moment, rather than thinking about what you need to accomplish for the day, as we so often do. If you do start thinking about something else—like work tasks, errands, or chores—that’s okay. You can notice it, let those thoughts pass, and then get back to focusing on the present moment.
One way to practice mindfulness is to focus on your breathing. Find a relaxing place to sit—somewhere you are not likely to be interrupted. If you like, you can close your eyes. Clear your mind of everything else and just focus on your breathing. Let your breath come in, and go out. Just breathe naturally. Your breathing may change on its own as you relax. It’s OK to notice the change, but don’t try to control it. If your mind starts to wander, bring it back to your breath.
Practicing mindfulness can help you focus your attention on the task at hand. It can help you learn to focus on one task at a time; to devote your full attention to that task; and to be fully present while you are accomplishing that task.
Instead of spending dinner with your family thinking about a problem at work, set those work worries aside and focus on dinner. Be present with your family. Notice the taste of your food. Listen to your spouse and your children while they are speaking. Let yourself be completely in the moment. Set aside another time to think about work.
You may find that mindfulness helps you accomplish your tasks just as well, if not better, than multitasking. And it may leave you feeling better too.