Stop multitasking to be more productive?
Sounds silly, doesn’t it? After all I thought I was the queen of multitasking! Listening to the news on the radio, playing poker on my smartphone, petting the cat with my left hand, balancing the massage ball between the floor and my left foot sole, slurping the homemade Kombucha thru a straw and reading the super interesting book “TaoSports – Thinking body, dancing mind”. Who doesn’t love multitasking to get things done and eventually have less stress?
Multitasking is something we do every day and normally if the tasks at hand don’t require much brainpower and rely on trained habits we are usually fine. But what if we are not able to combine these simple tasks anymore? What if we loose a bit of information here and there?
The more multitasking I do, the more things I forget and less efficient I am.
Here are a series of events, which gave me trouble in attempting to multitask. And therefore I didn’t get things done efficiently.
- After a fanatic 5 minute long search for the loose-leaf tea infuser, which required me to dig through all the cupboards, drawers and even the dishwasher, I found the thing sitting in a prominent position in the middle of the countertop. I must have cycled around it approximately a thousand times and probably even touched it while hunting for it.
– Hahaha! Soooo funny (laughing hard at myself).
- A similar setup happened with the only elastic hair band I own, just to find it tightly bound to my wrist, after a frustrating apartment wide excursion.
– Haha! I need to buy more elastics (lightly embarrassed).
- I left the house dressed in my bathing suit and discovered after swim class that I forgot to bring underwear to change into after swim class.
– Ha! S*#t. Should I leave the bathing suit on (ashamed)?
- I neglected to turn on the stovetop while waiting impatiently for the soup to cook.
– Really? What the f*#$ are you doing (humiliated)?
- I showed up at the wrong restaurant for lunch and was 100% sure that my friends had not gone to the right location.
– I have no words for that … (stressed, angry and devastated)!
Clearly things had slipped out of my control. So what was the pinkish gray, mushy tissue in my skull trying to teach me? “You suck at multitasking. And multitasking doesn’t make you happy nor is it efficient. It stresses you out and you don’t accomplish anything because you are not 100% focused.”
The more multitasking I do, the less control I have over my thoughts.
And this conclusion was right. I had the attention span of a gold fish. My processor brain seemed easily overwhelmed with the sensory input and didn’t dispense incoming data correctly. Instead of well-organized I felt like these two hamsters (watch at least until sec 30):
It is hard not to laugh at the two hamsters, right? But this is what my thoughts did. They kind of picked up on speed. One thought led to another thought and again to another thought. It was like galloping on the back of a wild horse. It took me to all these destinations but before I could pay attention to the location we were off again to a new purpose. I tried to remain in the saddle but had no control over directions and was absolutely clueless where the wild horse would take me.
The more multitasking I do, the more often I put my body in “stress” mode. Chronic stress mode is unhealthy.
Why we need to slow down when things get out of hand? Our minds are incredibly busy. Some researches say that we have approximately 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. Breaking that down into smaller numbers we are looking at 2,900 thoughts in an hour or 49 thoughts in a minute. That I call a vast amount of inner traffic.
Add the bombardments of emails, text, social media updates and other distractions that creep into our workdays and you got yourself a brain-crisis, which causes a fight-or-flight response.
The fight-or-flight response is actually a pretty cool inborn tool that is suppose to protect us from bodily harm. In hunter-gatherer times this was very useful. When the brain senses a threat let’s say in form of a wild tiger, an area of your brain initiates a sequence of nerve cell firing and chemical release that prepares the body for running or fighting.
When the fight-or-flight response is activated all systems move into “attack” mode. Adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol are released into the bloodstream. We start breathing more heavily. Our heart rate increases. Pupils dilate. Blood is shunted away from the digestive tract. Blood is directed to the muscles. Our perception of pain diminishes. Our immune system is mobilized.
I mean how awesome clever is that! There is just one thing. Unfortunately our brain can’t distinguish between the threat of a real tiger and the not so real threat of our demanding mother in laws, bills to pay, deadlines, rush hour traffic or chasing thoughts.
What that means, in today’s world is that we are constantly in the “attack” mode. We constantly flood our system with stress hormones. We constantly challenge our immune system. And we constantly shuffle blood away from our digestive system (which is a threat for digestion). Just because we are constantly thinking!
Science proves, productivity is doing one thing at a time. So stop multitasking.
So now imagine yourself in this situation while all your bodies systems are in alarm mode: You just managed to bat yourself a way through deep, unknown jungle with our machete. You swam through a muddy river with dangerous snakes. To remain undiscovered by the enemy troops was a miracle. The whole journey actually was a very, very narrow escape.
And now all I want to know from you is where you put the damn keys or where we meet for lunch?
Clearly, when we are in the fight-and-flight mode we can’t make clear choices, focus on just one complex task or make effective decisions. We can’t store information properly into the short-term memory. Therefore it will never make it into long-term memory. We can’t be aware of the location of the loose-leaf tea infuser or possibly expect us to bring spare underwear. Our mind is simply too busy for dispensable stuff like that.
Test yourself: Are you riding the wild horse or are you in control of your thoughts?
This test is very easy and quickly done. It will show you if you are the master of your thoughts or if your thoughts control you. Simply try to stop thinking. NOW.
Yep. I’m still here. I’m still waiting for you to stop thinking.
Maybe try one more time.
So? How many problems of yours have you solved in this short little while?
Don’t you find that it’s astonishing that we can demand so many things from our body (stop eating, stop feeling emotions, stop moving) but we can’t demand your brain to STOP THINKING?
We can’t simply stop thinking, as we can’t domesticate a wild horse in just an hour. But if you think that your brain and your body deserve a break from survival mode then I just might have the right thing for you.
Studies have shown that mediation or practicing mindfulness can decrease stress and improve focus. As you just proved to yourself, it isn’t easy to shut off the mental chatter. Therefore it needs practice. 10 minutes a day is a good way to start. And as always, of course there is an app for that:
- Headspace is meditation made simple. Think of it like a gym membership for your brain. You can get it on your phone or computer. Basic access is free.
- The master of mediation Deepak Chopra offers regularly FREE online 21-Day Meditation Experiences. The next one starts on Nov. 03/14. Sign up online.
- Need more research? Here are 10 mediation blogs you can follow.
- Want instant relaxation? How about relieving stress in an Epsom salt float tank?
Mindfulness and meditation means being in the moment, being present. It means focusing on just one thing at a time. It is the opposite of multitasking. Now think of a situation where you were happy. What were you doing at that moment? I bet you were focused on photoshoping pictures, playing with your pet or doing one of the things you love.
Conclusion: Happiness is to stop multitasking.
Stop multitasking. It is one very important tool for a healthier and happier you. Say why not, commit to it for couple of weeks of a meditation experiment and see what it can do for you. Domesticate that wild horse of yours.