In life is full presence in the moment better than multitasking? My greatest happiness and best accomplishments have emerged from all those times when I have been fully present. The gap between the knowing and the doing is what brings me here to share my thoughts with you.
Is it even possible to be completely in the moment in this madly changing and swiftly moving world? The explosion of information age is anything but slowing down and we naturally want to partake on this exciting journey, on all of it and at the same time. Consuming as much as possible, doing as many things as possible, and being as many versions of ourselves as we can creatively think of.
With all due respect to over-achievement and over-execution on our plans and our dreams in record time, there may be a better way to approach our life than by doing it all simultaneously by multitasking .
The challenge: Being fully present instead of multitasking
I subscribe to the theory that it is better to do things well in life, remarkably well, and to give them our all than to not do them at all. It is better to be selective about our goals, our interests, our relationships and our commitments to others than to submit to the chaos of multitasking. To do things to the best of our abilities, we must be fully present for all things.
Being fully present takes commitment, awareness, and conviction. It is not easy to do. Why do you need to be fully present if partially present will suffice? Why all the effort and work when less will do?
Let’s start by debunking assumptions: I consider these 3 general assumptions about super productivity to be false:
Assumption #1: Multitasking is Productive and Efficient.
Starting multiple tasks is a piece of cake but dividing your attention causes you to slip and make mistakes and that often costs you a lot more time later. Your mind is not a piece of clay. You cannot divide it into equal chunks and set them to various tasks on auto-pilot. Your mind is fluid like the ocean and you cannot predict its ebbs and flows when you divvy up your focus and attention back and forth. Single-tasking gets things done faster over a long period of time and almost always, with higher quality and better results than multitasking.
Assumption #2: Sometimes mediocrity is good enough.
An excellent life coach once told us in a seminar that every impression counts in the workplace and in life. She compared our overall impression to a large empty glass and each action on our part, large or small, a stone thrown into the glass. A black stone for a good impression and a red one for a poor impression. Every stone counts. Each stone adds to the glass and the full glass is the complete impression of who we are.
Mediocrity may suffice on the surface but if you compromise your own standards or true qualities in some situations in order to save time or money or effort in others, you will be adding red stones into your jar and at some point, they will taint your image.
Assumption # 3: People don’t notice your shortcuts.
You may never hear anyone complain or make mention of it to you; yet it would be naive to conclude that people fail to notice when you put forth less than your best. These people could be your coworkers, colleagues, peers, friends, family, fans or subscribers in the blogging world and their silence might not always mean support and satisfaction.
Every time you take a shortcut by spreading your attention too thin by multitasking, you may disappoint a fan here, a friend there. That may seem negligible at first but it is not a good trend to continue. You can hold yourself accountable and responsible for your best by focusing on each task fully and completely because it deserves your best.
Being fully present for your life is just one of many advanced life skills you need, but it is a quintessential quality to your success.
The Self-Awareness: What is your level of presence?
If you are not fully present in your own life, you lose your authenticity over time and your true potential hardly has time to shine before the next task calls your name. Often, you may not even realize your lack of presence and focus.
Where does your self-awareness lie in these situations?
Examples of what it means to be FULLY present:
- Listening intently, fully, completely to a speaker as an audience member or to a friend over tea.
- Reading the entirety of an email, an article, or a blog post without interruption of unrelated thoughts.
- Starting a task or solving a problem from start to finish, giving it your full focus, attention and best effort, regardless of importance.
- Talking on the phone to a friend with happy news or a colleague in need of your advice with all of your attention and consideration and care, reflecting on what they are explaining and responding in kind.
Examples of what it means to be PARTIALLY present:
- While listening to speaker or your close friend, you are also thinking of what you are going to say in response and how you will react to the topic or situation.
- While reading a blog post, answering the phone or a text message, remembering to pay a bill (and proceeding to do so), half-listening to your spouse / partner in the background and checking your email at least three times.
- Starting a task, and not even half-way through, start two more. Juggle them. Go back and forth, try to keep all of them straight, spend time re-focusing as you transition between them.
- Talking on the phone to a friend or a colleague, whispering the reassuring words, while your mind wanders to all the drama of your own life.
So what do you think? Do you fall victim to any of the examples in the second set?
The Experiment: Is it worth your while to change?
For a course of one week, experiment with two methods: (1) being fully present and (2) multitasking.
- Start the week with anywhere from 5-10 major tasks or problems or challenges.
- Choose tasks and problems which require various degrees of attention, focus, interaction with others, and levels of effort and time.
- Tell no one about the experiment (particularly yourself for we often deceive ourselves!!)
- Examples could be: Listening to a speech, having a long conversation with your partner or friend, solving a problem on your website, creating a better strategy for your financial freedom, helping someone else with a problem, planning a long vacation, taking a dance class, you name it!
First part of the week: Decide on your tasks, start the first task, do a little, start the second one, do a little, and start the third one and do a little, so on and so forth. Then juggle back and forth between them as necessary and as your motivation dictates, until done. That’s called multitasking. When finished, roughly estimate the quality and amount of time taken for all your efforts. Then set them aside.
Second part of the week: Decide on your tasks; then attack them one at a time. With the first one, focus your entire attention on it, do not spare an ounce of effort and more importantly any thought to the other pending tasks. Think, focus, and be truly present for the one in front of you. Desire to complete it well. Repeat for other tasks. Measure the same attributes upon finish.
Compare results and decide which method lent itself to your best results. If the first method wins, read on to sharpen those skills. If the second method, read on just to humor me.
The Change: Developing the skill to be Fully Present in Life
What is this craving to find distractions at every turn? Our minds seek instant gratification and our society and technology offer it in abundance. A wandering mind can escape work and concentration. Multitasking gives us the illusion of real productivity at times. It takes incredible self-discipline to develop a mindset of being fully present.
Methods to reinforce being fully present to yourself:
1. Do not feed the desire for distractions. Imagine being on a diet and resisting bad food at first. Consciously apply the knowledge until it becomes second nature.
2. Start small. Work without distraction for 10 minutes, then 20 then work up to an hour. Reward yourself with small milestones. Be patient with yourself.
3. Train yourself. After making tiny progress, make it habitual. Use self-discipline to develop the habit of focusing on one task at a time. Attack problems and your to-do list in single-mode.
4. Let the results fill up your motivation. It’s a cycle that can feed itself. If you see that you do your best when totally focused and fully present, you will want more of that outcome so you change your behavior to enable more success.
In the end, life happens to all of us. Urgent matters come up and naturally pull us away from important tasks. Outside factors change our plans and our directions. And we sometimes need to juggle and manage a million things at once. That, my friends, is life, as we all know. The point I am making is that multitasking will not allow you to achieve your very best, it is best to be fully present at the task at hand.
Results speak for themselves. You make the choice.
This article was written by Farnoosh Brock. She has a love for personal expression, writing, reading, traveling, juicing, and Argentine tango. Farnoosh explores all these elements and more on her fantastic blog Prolific Living. Please take some time to visit her, she is a lot of fun.
Do you prefer multitasking or single tasking?
Do you feel there is a time and place for both?
Is it a challenge for you to focus on one thing at a time?
The lines are open!