I have always been the type of person who prides themselves in the ability to get things done. I am organized, efficient, well studied… I’m a planner… kind of.
In my personal life, where I’m surrounded by my friends and family, I tend to go with the flow. I simply care more about spending time with people than I care about how we spend the time. If someone in my life cares a lot more about planning something than I do, I will gladly hand the task over and offer my two cents when solicited. If I have my heart set on something my friends and family know that I’ll say something.
When I set out to accomplish something it’s a completely different story. I plan it all out.
List upon list stuck to note books, each with an intended purpose spread out on the kitchen table. Each task is scrutinized and broken down into time frames.
While I work on “this” I could also fit “this” in… If I do this quickly then I can cross it off the list first and accomplish more before bed.
Once my plan is formulated, I get to work. As efficiently as possible I strive to accomplish the goal in the shortest time frame. Whether it’s a personal goal or a task at work I have spent years striving to be the best multitasker I can be.
Here’s the thing… Multi-tasking sucks.
An article in Psychology Today discusses how the brain works when completing tasks. Multitasking would require the brain to be able to “do” things simultaneously. Unfortunately, our brains do not work that way.
Research has shown that our brains have to complete each task separately; Stopping each task before starting the next. When you’re listening to a podcast and reading social media, your brain must switch back and forth between tasks very quickly. When you’re focusing on your text, you’re not fully focused on the podcast you are listening to.
Forcing the brain to switch focus from one task to another requires some time to switch tasks, refocus and get going again. This a measure of microseconds, but it adds up. It also requires a lot of energy! You wear out faster.
OK so what? Who cares if it takes me longer to text and listen to a podcast?
Truth is… No one cares. But when you’re sitting at work and trying to finish the last report for the week and emails are flashing away in the corner of your desktop and the phone is ringing… do you really feel like you’re being efficient?
This hits home for me when I consider my own work habits. Answering emails quickly while writing reports, working in the bush and listening to podcasts, or writing blog posts with Netflix on in the back ground.
Am I doing myself any favors by trying to focus on two things at once?
I’ve spent some time evaluating my multitasking ways. My goal is to be aware of how often I’m doing more than one thing at a time.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- I didn’t realize how often I do two or more things at once. In fact, most of the tasks I do in a day whether at work or at home are done two at a time. Even simple things… Watching a movie and look at social media during a slow part.
- I find myself rushing constantly. I’m not saving any time by answering emails and solving small problems while working on larger projects. I write myself notes as I switch between tasks to make sure I don’t forget the finer details or where I left off. At the end of the day I feel like I’m rushing around checking and double checking that I didn’t forget something in the chaos.
- There are plenty of ways I could multitask less often. There is absolutely no need to be watching tv and looking at Facebook at the same time. Or deciding to bake five different kinds of cookies in one day. We are all allowed some down time to just do whatever we feel like, but why cram so much in? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be wasting my time on a movie that can’t keep my attention, nor do I want to be social media obsessed to the point where I can’t make it through a movie without checking a news feed.
- Sometimes I can’t remember anything without lists. On busy days, I switch back and forth between tasks so often that I forget what has been completed and what hasn’t. So I have lists all over the place as reminders.
- It doesn’t make me feel good. If I’m being honest with myself, I don’t feel accomplished after a hard day of multitasking. I feel anxious. It takes me a long time to settle down after work or it causes me to dream about my to do list. (literally)
- It’s harder to stop doing than I realized. I didn’t even realize how much I do this! It was a bit overwhelming! So I started small and worked on my social media usage. How often was I checking my news feed while working on something else? This has been a tough one. I had been so mindless about how much I used my phone it was a reality check to become mindful of it.
It’s easy to move through the day without awareness. Without checking in with yourself regularly you lose track of where you are. Are you happy? Are you doing what you want with your time?
When I ask myself these questions, I realize that I put myself through lots of things that don’t leave me feeling fulfilled. I’m not saying that I’m only going to do what I want to do, but why can’t the goal be to do things with happiness in mind? I may not want to write that report, but I don’t have to cause myself more stress and anxiety in accomplishing it by trying to multitask at the same time.
I decided not to rush anymore. I don’t stress about accomplishing more than I can in one day or try to schedule things down to the minute. I decided not to rely on lists so much. To make a conscious effort to remember things. I still make plans, but my focus is on being present.
I believe these small changes are making me more efficient with my time and my energy. The people who count on me are still happy and I’m still taking steps towards my goals. I feel more satisfied. I spend a bit less time on social media and bit more time writing and creating. I am more present in the work place and I’m able to keep a calmer demeanor when things get hectic.
Do you feel like you multitask too much? Are you aware of how often you’re “connected” to social media or emails?
I invite you to try being more mindful about this in your life. After a few days of mindfulness, perhaps one or two things stick out you. Pick one and work on it, or if you’re satisfied then keep doing you! This whole process is meant to be more rewarding than restrictive.
I would love for you to share your stories of mindfulness!
How have you been aware of multitasking in your life? What benefits have you enjoyed since practicing mindfulness around this?
Let’s talk about it. Message me here or my Facebook page.