“….Needing to help change my mindset, I pay a visit to Linda Hall, a practitioner who teaches ‘resourcefulness meditation’. This is, she says, a life tool for managing stress levels, slowing busy minds and aiding concentration. Her website claims that big companies like Deutsche Bank, Google and Hughes Aircraft found that ‘meditation not only made employees sharper, but productivity is improved’. Well, if it’s good enough for Google…
Refreshingly, Hall totally gets my problem. When describing my need to constantly do a few things at once, she highlights my use of the word ‘need’ and asks, ‘Why do you feel you need to do so much?
It’s a simple question, but I’m flummoxed. Why do I feel the need to do so much? Hall suggests that I set myself free of this ‘need’ by focusing on my feet touching the ground, in order to get out of my headspace and think clearly. And during the relaxing meditation session, an image pops into my head of me arriving home that evening with nothing to do.
Resourcefulness meditation is big on grounding – literally focusing on the ground you’re rooted to, instead of the clutter in your head. While talking to Hall, I realise that I even multitask by thinking too much. My mind is constantly a whirl of ideas and lists, rarely do I focus on the here and now. Apparently, focusing on the present moment, instead of the past or future is a great aid in feeling calm and relaxed.
With a handful of CDs to listen to during my experiment, so that I can take the skills learnt through meditation into my everyday, I leave Hall with a spring in my step. I even have a moment of clarity as I walk to my office. Usually, I would rush along the street making a phone call as I rummage in my bag but, instead, I concentrate on the walking itself. I slow my pace and take stock of what is going on around me. I notice the regularity of my breath and the feeling of my feet on the ground. Everything feels clear and remarkably calm. I arrive at the office, feeling renewed and fresh, instead of chaotic and rushed.
That evening, as I get home, I remember my vision of having nothing to do. As I walk in the door, I take Bregman’s advice and turn off my phone. I play with Rafferty one-on-one without the TV on or me checking my emails. And I really do have more fun than when I’m distracted. After I put him to bed, instead of tidying up the detritus around the house, I sit down at the kitchen table and have a glass of wine, while my husband cooks dinner. The result is that we have a chat – a proper, interesting conversation that isn’t fragmented because I’m doing something else. This makes me feel extremely close to him, and, despite not clearing up when I usually would, everything that needs to get done, does.
The next morning, however, as I rush to get Rafferty’s bag ready for the childminder, while also having breakfast and thinking about what I need to take to work, I realise that multitasking is so ingrained, it’s going to take a stellar effort to eradicate it. So I stop, breathe deeply, focus on my feet touching the ground and proceed slowly.
Throughout the rest of the week, I am converted to this new way of life. I bat away the need to do more than one thing at once – sometimes deftly, other times with difficulty. It’s hard work changing habitual behaviour, but the more I practise restraint, the more I view those ‘multitasks’ as unnecessary distractions: email checking, Facebook browsing, mulling my to-do lists. All these became unimportant. Generally, I feel my shoulders lower and my stress levels drop. I’m getting greater enjoyment out of everything. I’ve even found myself enjoying the washing up, by focusing 100% on it. Multitasking? Pah! The real skill is monotasking.
5 Steps to Stop Multitasking
- Instead of rushing through many tasks, decide the one thing you want to do first and only do that. You’ll find you enjoy it more.
- Turn off your phone a few times throughout the day and check your email and messages in one go.
- Resist the urge to surf the internet, answer calls or chat to a colleague while working. You’ll get your project done quicker and more efficiently.
- Think about the task in hand, even if it’s just walking along the street. Notice the small things, like sounds, smells, and scenery.
- Throughout the day, stop to focus on your breathing and your feet touching the ground. Bring yourself back to the here and now and you’ll instantly feel calm”