When we multitask, our minds are encouraged to focus on the past or the future, rehashing what could have been or planning what could be.
This means that the thing that we are actually doing at the moment is only getting our partial attention.
When I have a lot on my plate, I try to do it all at once, never focusing on just one thing. I’ve realized that multitasking isn’t very effective. At least not the way I was doing it.
So as soon as we start to multitask, we lose our peace of mind. And it’s pretty challenging to do things right when our minds are not focused.
We need to start asking ourselves a question: does all of this really have to be done right now?
Everything screams for our attention, our undivided attention, it is all important. But we need to question our motivation.
I questioned my motivation and figured out that 98 percent of the time, I didn’t need to multitask. The driving force behind my multitasking was worry—something I needed to learn to work with and let go of this worry. For the remaining two percent of the time, multitasking can be effective. The only thing that needed an adjustment was my approach.
Trying a different approach:
I remember my first job. I was package handler. I had to sort, scan, pack and communicate. If I wanted to stay employed, I had to multitask; it was essential. My first two weeks were just practice. As I got the hang of it, my speed started to increase. I was able to do more in less time. Everything started to meld together. What was initially a few tricky steps became one fluid motion.
That was back before life got in the way. I was 16 years old and little else mattered. I wasn’t thinking about what was next on the list. In that cold, dry, dark warehouse, I was enjoying myself instead of rushing.
Lately I’ve been trying to tap into that younger me and I’ve realized that to multitask effectively we need to think less and stay present.
Multitasking the sane way:
You would think that in order to get things done, you need to prepare. But that’s only partially true. We shoot ourselves in the foot when we over-prepare. We get so far ahead of ourselves that we use every moment to continually prep for the future. I have found the best way to multitask and stay sane is to:
>> Keep your thinking and preparing to a minimum.
>> List out the things you need to get done. Write them down on paper. Then you know what you are working with. From there, prioritize everything.
>> Once everything is down on paper, start working. As you’re doing each task, only do that task, focusing on it and doing it well.. You don’t have to worry about what’s next, you have everything down on paper, they are not going anywhere.
>> If an idea or thought comes up, write it down if it’s useful. If it’s not, let it pass. Whatever you do, don’t feed into it. Just leave your thoughts alone.
>> Practice staying present and shifting from one task to the next. Allow yourself to sink into your work until it becomes one fluid motion.
The only way I’ve been able to maintain my peace of mind while multitasking is by getting out of my own head. Putting everything down on paper, working my way through the process and staying grounded has been key to my success.
Everything doesn’t have to be done at once. We do not have to rush. There is something beautiful about simplifying the way we do things. Start making things a little bit easier on yourself.
Author: Nick Mason
Image: Ally Mauro/Flickr
Appentice Editor: Justine O’Connell; Editor: Catherine Monkman