There is something about the concept of multi-tasking that mesmerized us. Perhaps we believed it was the answer to gaining more from the present moment. As it turns out, the opposite is true. I remember the first time I checked email from my phone and thought “man, this is going to save so much time”. It wasn’t a foolish thought. I mean, if you can check emails (get work done) while you’re waiting in line at Starbucks, who could see the “bad” that would come from that? Today, we feel more busy, more stressed and more anxious than ever before. Multi-tasking alone is not to blame, but it’s making a contribution to the chaos for sure.
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Think about our brains like an internet connection. When the connection is good, the internet is fast and Netflix looks crisp and clear. However, as more tasks tap into our bandwidth, each becomes less crisp and less clear. This is exactly what multi-tasking has done to US. Because we are seemingly in some race against time, we will often eat lunch, watch TV and check emails/texts at the same time. Meanwhile, we don’t get the chance to enjoy our food, the show we’re watching or be truly engaged with the people who are communicating with us. In effect, we get a great number of tasks accomplished, but we don’t have clarity about any of it and everything seems to be a blur. I hear people say things like “I don’t even remember what I had for breakfast today…” and I know why they can’t remember. If we are truly present with every moment and every task, then we would remember them more vividly because we actually experienced each moment instead of just surviving it.
This is the classic case of Quality vs. Quantity. The multi-tasking philosophy believes that quantity is King. The more you can get done, the better. But at what point does sacrificing quality cause more harm than good? If you’re a multi-tasker, this is an important thought to have on a regular basis. We’ve all had a low-quality human interaction because someone was pre-occupied on their smart phone. Remember how that felt and what your take-away was from the experience.
When we jump through all the hoops of multi-tasking, going from one action to the next, there is a big price to pay with our internal dialogue. Our natural state of restful awareness, peace and balance gets majorly disrupted with all this activity. It can and most certainly will, make us more stressed, anxious, restless and desperate. Imagine those moments when you keep checking your phone for a new text or email over and over, even when you just checked it. We become tethered to the tools of multi-tasking very easily. Moment by moment, this draws us away from our True Self…our Soul.
The only way to avoid this trap is to form a daily practice of mono-tasking. There was a great Ted Talk on this subject for which I have posted the video below. Mono-tasking is the idea of focusing on just one task at a time. In Zen, this is taken to the extreme, in such that you might take each step gingerly and deliberately. I don’t take it that far, but you can understand why it fits with Zen. I mean, how could you be more present than just focusing on each task 100%! I use a simpler version where I will try to just eat when I’m eating. Just listen to music when I want to hear music. Just write when I want to write. Just watch a show, when I want to watch a show. Take inventory during the day and recognize how many things we’re doing all at once. Breaking this down to individual tasks seems to not only be better for our minds, but also for our Soul.
Happy Meditating. I really hope it helps. Namaste 🙂
TED TALKS on Mono-Tasking