Are you a multitasker? What does that mean exactly and how does it relate to how successful you are in navigating the world we all live in?
“Human multitasking is the apparent performance by an individual of handling more than one task at the same time. The term is derived from computer multitasking. Multitasking can result in time wasted due to human context switching and apparently causing more errors due to insufficient attention.”
So let’s break it down. How can we relate?
If you’ve rushed through your morning feeling frazzled and only half in focus, you’re probably not alone. Many of us are trying to manage it all. We are wives, mothers, co-workers, friends, daughters and volunteers, etc. We don’t have time to think about the actual impact of multitasking on our ability to accomplish our goals.
And let’s face it, failure is not an option.
So we make lists, check and recheck our calendars and make the effort to fit it all in. Many of us go to bed at night going over how we could have been more efficient and kicking ourselves for dropping the proverbial ball – because there’s just not enough time in the day.
Many of us probably don’t even know how to just be. We just know that EVERYTHING needs to get done, preferably yesterday.
There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests that the human brain is actually incapable of multitasking. When we focus on more than one task, the brain is actually toggling between the two or more efforts, which ultimately does a disservice to everything.
“Contrary to popular belief, people are less efficient – not more – when they multitask. That’s because it takes more time to complete one of the tasks, especially as they become more complex, versus focusing on a single task.”
For example, there is research that shows that talking on a cell phone and driving a car at the same time puts you and those around you at risk. Although you cannot perceive it, your brain cannot give both tasks its full attention. Your reaction time behind the wheel actually slows down.
And similar results are found when we try to do too many things at once. We may find ourselves standing in the kitchen with no memory of how we got there or why we were heading to the kitchen to begin with. If that happens, we were most likely immersed in doing something else, like checking our email or going over tomorrow’s calendar.
And did you know that the act of multitasking makes the human brain feel great? It actually triggers our brain’s reward system, which equates to an emotional high. This could account for why we continue to talk and drive at the same time, even after we become educated about the risks.
In essence, when we attempt to multitask, we are not totally present to experience every triumph and every sorrow in its vast complexity. We are not stopping to immerse ourselves in the project or interaction at hand and appreciate every single second. We are in fact, not there. At least some small part of us is missing.
And let’s face it, life is way too short to be absent, even for those moments we’d rather forget. And there’s really no chance that life is going to slow down, unless we begin to make different choices.
So how can we take back our lives, at least on some sort of manageable level? According to the experts, it’s simple. Be present. Be mindful. Pay attention.
It seems easy. It’s not. It takes practice. And lot’s of it.
Just as we condition our bodies at the gym or we exercise our mental prowess on an important work project, it takes a tremendous amount of work to bring ourselves back to the present moment.
We can practice the art of being present. In short, we can remind ourselves to be mindful. We have the power within us to experience every moment of our lives. We can actually savor that cup of coffee, instead of gulping it down. Or we can stop and truly listen as our child tells us about his/her day.
We can hit the pause button at any moment and just be. We have the privilege of being the guardians of what we allow into our sphere. We alone get to choose what we let into our lives.
This year, the League will continue to bring the practice of yoga to young people from across Oakland County through our Kids in the Kitchen programming. The League will focus primarily on helping our young people focus on getting the exercise they need to stay healthy.
The League’s Kids in the Kitchen Yoga Program. Students in Tree Pose.
Although a physical practice, which dates back to 3000 B.C., yoga also embodies the art of remaining present. It is the practice of being mindful and allowing things to just flow.
In short, it’s a state of being that we can choose to adopt. Some yoga masters say that practicing yoga is not about the postures at all. Rather, it is about learning to let go and allowing the mind to be simultaneously calm and present. It is just one of the precepts millions of women use everyday to reconnect with themselves.
Tomorrow you will wake up to walk the dog, feed the kids, write the book, pay the bills, lead the meetings or finish that project, etc. Take time to remember that your brain works best if you allow yourself to be completely and gloriously present, no matter how boring the task might be. And you might do well to remind yourself that it can take up to 10,000 hours to master any skill or process. Be patient with yourself as you take on the challenge of stillness and just be.