Multitasking can be an excellent time-saving tool … when it isn’t diluting needed focus, taking you out of the moment, and slowing you down.
You see, the fundamental truth about multitasking is that it works well with simple tasks, but leads to buckets of lost time if you’re working on something that requires your full attention. Not only that, but multitasking, by its very nature, keeps you on the surface of your moments. It’s the opposite of mindfulness!
So the trick with multitasking is knowing when to use it – and when to stay away!
Here are some things to consider, as you take steps to make multitasking a useful tool for yourself:
Multitasking and Mindfulness
You could say that multitasking is all about how much you can fit into a moment, while mindfulness is about how deeply you can engage with that moment.
Multitasking will enhance your efficiency over the short term, but it also slowly drains your energy and distances you from yourself. I think of mindfulness as plugging into an electrical current – the wellspring of your spirit – while multitasking is more like running on battery power.
That’s not to say that it’s bad – just that it truly is depleting, and that’s something to keep an eye on.
Multitasking and Mindfulness – One Example
In Thich Nhat Hanh’s famous book The Miracle of Mindfulness he writes beautifully about this, using the task of doing the dishes as the example. Here is part of what he says:
“If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future -and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.”
Mindfulness is refreshing and deepening, connecting us with ourselves, our creativity, and our moments in ways that ultimately do enhance efficiency and effectiveness – though it’s not always obvious or quantifiable.
So What About Multitasking?
Well, the reality is that we aren’t always mindful and sometimes we just need to get things done. I would argue that there is a place for multitasking – but it needs to be used with a consciousness of its shortcomings and its long-term effects.
And there are truly are some tasks that lend themselves to this time tool – and others that it simply won’t work for.
For anything that requires engagement and attention – like writing a blog post, for example – multitasking doesn’t help. Tasks that require little or no focus are good candidates for this tool, however.
You might use exercise time to also listen to podcasts. Or if you are on hold with someone on the phone, you might answer e-mails while you wait.
I recently read an interesting post by Linsey Knerl titled “The Simple Way to Make Multitasking Actually Work” on the blog Wisebread. She writes:
“Multitasking works when the tasks you are attempting to complete require different levels of thought and only one requires you to really focus your thought processes. For example, folding laundry while you are having a phone conversation (with the phone on speaker) or typing a letter while dinner simmers on the stove.”
To a point, I agree with this. Just be aware that whenever you want to replenish your energy, no matter what you’re doing, the key is to let go of multitasking and come back to your moment mindfully!© Copyright 2014 Paula Eder, Ph.D.