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Is it Really Multitasking?

posted in: Mindfulness | 0

How often do you find yourself fully engaged, fully present in your everyday life? For most of this, this isn’t something that comes naturally. We’ve been conditioned to believe that multitasking is the way to be more productive. That’s how I lived most of my life.

The thing about busyness is that it keeps you distracted, distracted from exploring your inner world. There is no time to sit in quiet, to allow those questions to bubble up from our soul. Perhaps for some, that’s why they stay so busy, because it’s easier to avoid the inner voice than it is to respond.

I believe, and research suggests, that there is no such thing is multitasking. When we think we’re multitasking, it’s just our brain switching quickly between tasks. Our brains can only focus on one thing at a time, and with little attention to either task, neither is done very effectively. You are much more productive if you focus on just one task.

We multitask all the time, not just at work. In the shower we are planning our shopping list. At breakfast, we read our emails. When we talk on the phone we’re scrolling social media. And the list goes on and on.

In the past several years, I’ve been better at single task focus. That’s one of the gifts that my mindfulness practice has given me. I know that for many, their job demands multitasking, and that may not be something that you can control. Take time for single task focus in your everyday life. There’s a Zen proverb that goes like this: “When you walk, walk. When you eat, eat. When you sit, sit.” These are things you do have control over, and brings you in to present moment awareness.

Last week, my husband and I were traveling, and for that week, I made a commitment to be fully present. No work, minimal technology, a retreat of sorts. This helps me to reset, to remember to stay in the present moment and focus on what’s important. I am grateful for the luxury to do this and understand that not everyone has the time or the means to take their own retreat. Everyone can, however, engage in the present moment on a regular basis.

For this I’m going all the way back to my very first blog post on September 30, 2020. Entitled “Ten Ways to be Mindful Throughout Your Day” it’s full of simple suggestions to help bring you in to present moment awareness. Give one or two a try today and then just notice what you notice:

    1. As soon as you wake up in the morning, rather than jumping out of bed, pause long enough for 3 whole breaths to pass quite naturally. It will only take a few seconds, but it will set the tone for the day ahead.
    2. When you brush your teeth, make it an exercise in mindfulness. Rather than just thinking about stuff, pay attention to the physical sensations, the smells, the taste etc. In time it can feel like a mini-meditation.
    3. Whether you drink tea, coffee or OJ in the morning, make it a ritual. Sit down with it, if only for the first few sips. Be aware of the smell, the taste, the temperature and everything else. Savor the moment and realize when the mind has wandered.
    4. Stick a post-it note on the back of your front door to remind you to be mindful as you walk after leaving. To begin with, it may only last 30 seconds or so, but with practice, it can be much longer.
    5. Make the beginning and end of every journey another mindful moment. When you first get on, get in, sit down or whatever it is, be present for 3 breaths. Then repeat again, before you get up, get out or stand up. The natural beginning and end helps to jog the memory.
    6. If you work at a desk, apply the same idea as travel. You don’t have to do it in a very obvious way, but just using that natural change in posture to trigger the memory to be present. Every time you sit down or stand up provides a lot of opportunities in the day.
    7. If you are at home more often, then try experimenting with “opening and closing”. By this I mean every time you open or close a door, that becomes the trigger for mindfulness, of being aware and present. It’s surprisingly effective and relatively easy to do.
    8. Every time you eat, there is the opportunity to remember to be present. So always pause before eating, just long enough for one whole breath, and then as you eat, use the taste, smell etc. as your object of focus. It makes the food taste better, makes you eat slower & helps you lose weight, too!
    9. Some people find that by putting a little sticker on the back of their phone, it helps to remind them to be present, when the mind is getting lost in thoughts and distractions.
    10. Take a moment before going to bed to appreciate something good which has happened in the day. It may sound a bit cliché, but it feels really nice and immediately brings the mind into the present, even if we are thinking about something from the past.

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