As I pondered some universal struggles with parenting and modern life in general, the idea of multi-tasking just came bubbling to the surface. The art of multi-tasking is completely overrated!
I used to think that because I am a master at multi-tasking, as are most women, I should be proud of my accomplishments. I can dissect recipes, cook dinner, respond to work emails and engage with my daughter at the same time! I am such an accomplished mama! While working crazy hours during fashion week, I can write and send out hundreds of press releases, field & place important calls, respond eloquently to emails and address colleagues and client's drama all at the same time. All while appearing cool, calm and collected. I'm a master of my domain! You know what? In hindsight, when I multi-task, nothing actually gets my attention enough to effectively be the best it could be. It's all good, but is it really great? Things slip through the cracks. Dinner takes way too long to prepare. Mistakes happen.
When researching this phenomena of multi-tasking, psychologists actually use the term “task-switching”. In reality, our brains and actions can not do more than one thing at a time, so we actually switch tasks. An example of how we can overcome this is when we repeat tasks over and over, only then are we able to multi-task --- such talking and walking in synch.
Task-switching really isn't the best example for our kids either. They want us to really listen to them. I heard some parenting advice from Dr. Shefali who wrote “The Conscious Parent”, where she offered a gentle, vital reminder....when our children are talking with us, we should stop, give them our full attention and listen. When we are busy, it's good let them know, mention we'll be able to focus as soon as our project of the moment is complete. They need us to stop and focus. Not to text and pretend we are listening. I know this is difficult especially when our kids just don't shut up. Breathe. We are teaching them mindfulness by practicing being present ourselves. It ain't easy, as I slip up regularly, but I'm on the path. By the way, adults actually want us to REALLY listen too!
Five Keys to Squash the Art of Multi-Tasking:
1. Take on our most challenging or very important tasks first.
At the end of your day, identify the most pressing tasks for the next day. In the morning, tackle these pressing tasks first thing...before you get swept away. As the day goes by and we don't accomplish our main goals, inevitably we end up with anxiety or disappointment. If you do the big stuff first, you can relax more and have a chill day. Instead of drafting your “To Do List”, my new thing is creating an “Opportunities” List. Create this list in the evenings to prepare for tomorrow. Many successful entrepreneurs taut this action as vital for accomplishing goals efficiently.
2. Divide and conquer.
Divvy up your “Opportunities” into batches and set specific chunks of time. Rather than check emails and social media all throughout the day which sucks up your precious time, try setting aside a certain time maybe 2-3x per day to respond to emails. This can pertain to any activities, void of the digital world. Just implementing this concept of setting aside special time for key projects can add more effective accomplishments in your day. I personally find this really difficult, but when I do implement it, I see a crazy difference in my productivity. It's also good for curbing email or social media obsessions.
3. Implement the 80/20 rule
The 80/20 rule states that 20% of our work results in 80% potent, powerful accomplishments. Running around, as if we are a chicken without a head, in no way means we are more efficient. The busier we are, the more multi-tasking we do... a vicious cycle. Some of us city dwellers actually pride ourselves in being busy. It's a sign of importance. I remember as a recent college grad, I was assisting a celebrated stylist and he told me, one thing I need to know about working in fashion in NYC is that I always have to appear busy with various projects. It makes for a good impression. No wants to work with others that have nothing going on. I saw how he practiced what he preached and to this day he actually is a successful designer and stylist. His advice is sadly so true, but I'm kinda over all that now. I wish living with our truth was more acceptable. How can we shift this consciousness? As I've slowed down to reduce multi-tasking, I realize that I definitely don't accomplish all I would like to in a day, but I do get to the VIP stuff done more often. But my new thing is “Tomorrow is another day.”....G*d willing.
4. Wise Concentration
This wisdom is actually the final step of the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path, a pinnacle of Buddhist teachings. It's also a key strategy on the the road to success. Concentration is to cultivate the mind to engage in the opposite of multi-tasking, but instead directed toward a single-pointed purpose. With focus and concentration, not only do we do our best work but we listen to others more effectively, which improves our relationships. According to Buddhist philosophy, there are two categories of concentration: one-pointed focusing and moment-to-moment concentration, which is also known as mindfulness. As they say, when one is able to cherish the present moment, they are able to live with more joy.
5. Do Nothing.
Silence offers you a unique opportunity to tap into your inner wisdom & creativity. Science has shown us that creative ideas are formed in the prefrontal cortex of our brains. Since our prefrontal cortex only accomplishes one thing at a time, multi-tasking is the opposition. Clear the mind...exercise independently, meditate, stroll in nature, surround yourself with beauty and enjoy. Parents with young kids must really try to give themselves the gift of special solo time. We will all experience life transformations with more silence in our lives.
6. Unplug. Enjoy Nature.
Studies have shown that task-switching results in exhaustion and agitation...surprise, surprise!!! So what better reason, than to actually go on a retreat or vacation, unplug all your tech and live life the old fashioned way for awhile. It really is so refreshing. Even if you can't go away right now, you could try to challenge yourself by unplugging at certain time each evening. I'm heading to a retreat with my daughter soon and I'm actually looking forward to leaving my computer behind. We all could use a break.
So what tips resonated with you to shift your multi-tasking, task switching lifestyle? Please do share with me in the comments below.
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