Our everyday lives seem to require it. We try to fit more things into the same 24 hour day. We re-arrange, and double up and prioritize. Some people even boast that they’re great at multitasking…but in reality this concept, doesn’t even exist (for most people). Multitasking, in it’s truest form - means give 100% of your focus to multiple things at the same time. Focusing completely and entirely on two different tasks simultaneously. Now, for some (a small percentage of the population) this is possible. For most of us, including me, it’s not. What most of us are doing when we’re multi-tasking is dividing our attention between tasks; 40% watching this tv show, 10% on what I’m eating, 40% on these email’s I’m responding to and 10% on - wait…the kids are too quiet - WHAT’S GOING ON IN THERE!? We divide our attention to try to save us time, to fit more in - and this creates chaos. Chaos in our home, in our workplace, and in our mind.
For me, this chaos brings anxiety and panic. Like a roller coaster picking up speed. In the midst of this chaos, I start to forget things; when is this due again? I know he told me what time that meeting was, where did I leave my glasses? And the more I pile on, the bigger this problem gets.
With the infiltration of Iphones , apps and smart everything - the buzzing, and pinging and bright light and notifications - it’s hard for me to remember a time when I wasn’t encouraged, pushed even, into dividing attention between multiple things at once. I find myself antsy, uncomfortable even, watching tv, reading or even driving (yikes) without “doing” something else. I recently started using the tracker on my Iphone to monitor how often I pick up my phone, how many notifications I get per day, how much time I’m spending looking at that screen - the results shocked me.; 3 hours per day, 122 notifications per day, 56 pick ups per day. This is mindlessness at it’s very best. Getting this information had me wondering how often I was truly doing 1 thing at a time, and was this even possible for me?
I started to really focus more on the everyday pull in my life to multitask and began to take out what I could. I always say that you can’t change what you don’t know is happening- and I tried to start small. When I was eating, I tried to just eat. When I was working on a project at work, I turned my phone screen face down, turned off all of my pings and focused in. It sucked. Honestly. My anxiety increased, I was annoyed because somethings seemed to take longer - I felt like I wasn’t as productive. At first. Then - things started to shift. I started recognizing more and more that panicked feeling that comes with trying to get it all done at once. I started to schedule short, 1 minute, 2 minute, reminders throughout the day to stop everything and think - What is it I am focused on right now? Am I really solely focused on it? Is there something I can put down to focus on it better? This seemed to make being more mindful suck less. I started thinking, ok maybe this isn’t so bad. Those thoughts lead into problem solving. I tried to come up with ways to help that feeling of not being as productive (which - was not reality BTW - turns out it just feels real weird to do one thing at a time). I started using my Iphone as a tool to help me practice being more mindful, there are tons of great apps out there!
Being increasingly mindful is a constant process - it’s a practice. Personally, I don’t think it’s something one “masters”. It’s like a living breathing thing that needs to be watered, pruned and taken care of - checked in on often - loved, nurtured. For me, there are some days where it is easier than others. I’m still looking for ways to be more mindful while I’m eating - it’s such a challenge for me to JUST eat and not check my messages, get a jump on that next assignment, catch up on email etc.
So - How, today, can you be more mindful?