One morning I went to the gym for a swim before starting my work day. When I got back to the locker room, I realized the clock by the pool was slow. I didn’t have nearly as much time as I needed to get ready. Most of my work is done over the phone, so it really doesn’t matter how I look, however, on that day I was going into a company and wanted to look presentable. I wasn’t sure how that would happen given my limited time. Out of desperation, I ended up drying my hair while putting on mascara. Not a pretty picture! I did get to my meeting on time and in one piece, but with quite a struggle. I’m lucky I didn’t poke my eye out!
How often are you multi-tasking instead of mono-tasking, whether by choice or out of habit? We live in a culture where it’s become the norm to do more than one thing at a time. We may pride ourselves on our multi-tasking ability, believing that it helps us get more done. When we are honest with ourselves, however, we recognize what studies are beginning to show: multi-tasking is not productive. It’s really only possible to place your attention on one thing at a time. If you don’t believe this, here’s an experiment: Think about the about the taste of a fresh strawberry (that fresh, luscious, burst of sweetness) at the exact same time as you subtract 37 from 95. Really concentrate. You can switch back and forth really quickly, but you can’t actually think about both things simultaneously. When we multi-task, our attention is splintered, flitting back and forth between the multiple things we are attempting to accomplish. If, like me, you attempt to follow Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, including the agreement to “do your best” we would we well served to minimize multi-tasking. When we have more than one thing we are working on, our efforts will rarely be more than second best.
Mono-tasking, on the other hand, has many benefits. When we give our full attention to something, we usually do it efficiently and well. It is a form of mindfulness. We feel better about ourselves, the process we are engaged in, as well as the end product. As I typed the first word of this paragraph, I noticed I’d made a Freudian slip typo. I’d written “Mom-tasking”. It made me recall all the multi-tasking I’d done as a work-from-home mother. Many afternoons I would be doing laundry, making dinner, listening to a personal or business development recording, and helping a son with his homework, all at the same time. When my husband or the other son would come into the room to ask me something or share about his day, I hardly gave my full attention. When we give our full attention to someone and listen with our whole being, it feels like a gift. Those are moments to treasure in our relationships.
What do you want to give your full attention to?
How do you feel when you mono/multi-task?
Where could you simplify your life by narrowing your focus?