In our times, multitasking is the norm. Many organizations list the ability to multitask effectively as a top requirement across a variety of job descriptions. We pride ourselves on being able to do two things at once in order to save time and, theoretically, be more productive. But research shows this may not be the case.
It makes you think twice
It is possible to do two things at once. However, multitasking is actually just switching our attention back-and-forth quickly between two cognitive tasks. And, when we divide our attention, we make more mistakes and end up taking longer to complete the tasks. In essence, we are really "multiswitching."
Dr. Travis Bradberry, a leading expert on emotional intelligence and published author, says that multitasking may be damaging our brains. He points to research from Stanford University which compared groups of people based on their tendency to multitask and their belief that it helps their performance. They found that heavy multitaskers - those who multitask a lot and feel that it boosts their performance - were actually worse at multitasking than those who like to do a single thing at a time. The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another.
On top of all of this, we have a running commentary in our brains from that little voice that is always giving us opinions and offering advice on any and every thing that we experience. Some of us (like me) have entire committees giving us their input, whether we ask for it or not. It's a wonder we're not all completely insane!
to sit quietly in a room alone."
- Blaise Pascal
• lower stress
• reduce anxiety
• lower blood pressure
• reduce chronic pain
• improve mental clarity
• increase emotional awareness
• increase engagement in activities
• form deeper connections with others
BEGINNING A REGULAR MINDFULNESS PRACTICE
FORMAL MINDFULNESS - MINDFULNESS MEDITATION (10 to 20 mintues daily)
*You can also follow along with the guided "Mindfulness of the Breath" meditation below.
1.) Set a timer for 10-20 minutes. Find a place that is relatively free from distractions. Sit comfortably in an upright chair or on the floor. Make sure that your back is straight and that your spine and neck are supported. You should be alert but not rigid. Give yourself permission to be here now. You can close your eyes or keep them opened and softly focused.
2.) Take several deep breaths in and out. On the in breath, you may want to quietly say in the back of your mind, "peace." On the out breath, you can say "stress." Continue breathing in "peace" and breathing out "stress" until you feel that you are mostly present and centered. Give your attention to this meditation session in a way that is genuinely interested and accepting of whatever happens.
3.) Begin to breathe normally. Pay attention to where you feel the breath as you breathe in and out. Do you feel it at the tip of the nose? The back of the throat? The chest or abdomen? Also, notice the temperature of the air as you breathe in and out. When is it warm? When is it cool? Wherever you notice the breath most strongly, keep your attention there as you continue to breathe normally.
4.) The mind will wander. This is normal. To help your mind stay focused, you can softly say in the back of your mind, "breathing in" and "breathing out." Each time your attention wanders, simply return to the breath by using these words along with noticing where you feel the breath most.
5.) Continue breathing normally and keep coming back to the breath when your mind wanders. We all get lost in our thoughts and stories during meditation. The important point is that you keep coming back to the breath. Every time you return to the breath is actually a moment of mindfulness. Avoid criticizing yourself or trying too hard to figure this all out. Practice makes progress.
6.) When your timer goes off, return your attention to the space where you are seated. Take one or two deep breaths and then go about the rest of your day, bringing a little more mindfulness into everything you do. You may want to journal about your experiences following your meditation sessions to deepen your practice and to review your progress over time.
Along with meditation, it's important to practice mindfulness as a part of our daily tasks and routines. Try one or two of these informal mindfulness practices per week and as often as possible each day. Simply keep your attention on the task itself, and when your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the task.
• brushing your teeth
• taking a shower
• eating a meal
• opening doors
• composing an email
• answering a phone call
• checking social media
• stopping in traffic
If you would like help bringing more mindfulness into your life and work, CONTACT me to schedule a free 30 minute session to see if coaching could be right for you.
Click below for an 8-minute guided meditation covering mindfulness of the breath.
Listen to my Blog Talk Radio interview about mindfulness with host Sharissa Sebastian.