Apart from the obvious risk to safety, multitasking can make you stressed, confused and tired. You may think you are saving time by doing several things at once, but it's more likely that you are losing time. When you multitask, it's harder to finish anything or do it well. Multitasking also deprives you of the pleasure that can be experienced by doing just one thing with full attention.
The challenge with multitasking is that we have come to take it for granted. We seem to pride ourselves on how much we can do at once. We believe we should be always available, always open for business, always open for interruption. But here is a six-stage process that you can use to get a quick grip on multitasking—and learn how to unitask.
As soon as you realize you are multitasking, stop. In other words, learn to interrupt the interruptions.
Now take a moment to untask. To untask, try doing One-Moment Meditation. Or you can do a little dance, jump up and down, sing a song, or—if necessary,—scream. The important thing is to get in the habit (as soon as you catch yourself multitasking) of giving yourself a complete mental pause. Think of this as pressing the reset button on your mental machine.
Now that you have untasked, ask yourself, "What do I really want to do (or have to do) right now?" You might need to wait a few seconds before getting an answer. Or you might find that the answer pops into your mind immediately. Now that you have cleared your mind of other people's voices, it is much easier to hear your own.
Now that you've identified the task you most want (or need) to do, imagine the pleasure of doing it (or the pleasure of having done it). Imagine this as vividly as possible.
Now affirm to yourself, "Right now, I really want to ___________." Say this several times. You can also add a specific time frame (e.g., "For the next 15 minutes, I really want to ___________").
Having taken a moment to untask, and having made a conscious commitment to do just one task, you will be much more likely to give it your all. In other words, you are able to unitask.
This whole process—from multitasking to unitasking, by way of untasking—doesn’t have to take long. It can happen in a flash. The more frequently you do it, the easier it becomes.
When you are immersed in doing the one thing that you have consciously chosen to do, you will feel a kind of quiet ecstasy, the pleasure of doing one thing at a time, and the confidence that comes from knowing this is truly what you want to do.
This is actually a kind of spiritual experience, because you will experience an in-the-momentness, a quality of mind in which you are not separate from what you are doing. You lose yourself in your project and, in the doing of it, find yourself. Even the most mundane task can be done in this way.
Martin Boroson is a playful, practical new voice in the next wave of meditation teachers. Author of One-Moment Meditation: Stillness for People on the Go, he lectures on the benefits of a meditative mind for decision-making and leadership. Marty studied philosophy at Yale, earned an MBA from the Yale School of Management and is a formal student of Zen. Visit his website for One-Moment Meditation® help and resources, tweet him at @takeamoment or find him on Facebook.
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Did you try the six-stage process? Were you able to unitask? Let us know—leave your comments and questions below!