Multi-Tasking Versus Single or “Mindful” Tasking

multi task yoga woman

I used to be so very proud of myself for being such a good multi-tasker and at some levels I still am. It is needed and valuable when the situation fits, but many  times single tasking or “mindful” tasking is better. Our daily hectic life styles make if feel like we have to multi task. Lets take a look at both. And then see how we may integrate these different approaches in our daily, realistic lives.

Definition of Multi-Tasking: Performance of multiple tasks at one time. (Merriam-Webster)  A person’s ability to do more than one thing at a time. (Cambridge Dictionary)

Pros of Multi-Tasking: Ability to getting more done within a time frame. Potentially achieving more with the time you have. It can be a helpful tool if you are in certain emergency situations.

Cons of Multi-Tasking: Not fully being able to focus and give full attention to something or someone. The risk of not doing something well, but only partially doing a task. Errors and mistakes increase the more you are multi-tasking. It can leave you feeling stressed, overwhelmed and not completely connected to the projects or people you are working with. You may find yourselves more blunt and less patient with others as you multi-task. What you do accomplish may not be your best.

mindful animated man with lots thoughts and dog with simple thoughts

Definition of Single or “Mindful” Tasking: Bearing in mind: aware. (Merriam Webster)  Giving attention. (Cambridge Dictionary)

Pros of Single or “Mindful” Tasking: Giving your full attention to something or someone allows you to use your full intellect and emotions to accomplish what you want to do. Focusing on one thing at a time gives you the ability to give something or someone your best. Weather it is communicating with someone who you care about or completing an important task for your business. This full focus can allow you to potentially save time if this is your goal.  Focusing on one thing at a time feels less stressful and more peaceful. Our bodies are not really intended to be in a “red alert” multi-task framework for long periods of time.

Cons of  Single or “Mindful” Tasking: You may feel you are not getting enough done. You have all this “stuff” going on and you are only doing one thing at a time. You may wonder am I doing all I can. At times you may feel you have no realistic choice but to be doing multi things at once.

 

An Integrated Approach to How We Manage Our Time

As I was writing this, it occurred to me, you can truly only do one thing at a time. It is HOW you choose to do each thing or interact with each person you have in front of you. You do have CHOICES as to how much time and focus you spend on something. And you do have a choice on which thing you focus on first.

Yes there are some realities of performance on a job or making sure all the basics happen at your home or with your children. It may be at times you make a choice to spend less time on something and it be a bit less  perfect. Or you may choose to take time for a conversation as you feel it is more important in the long run than something else you are working on.  It is really all about choice and what you choose to focus on and for how long. And what you view as most important to you.

As a therapist, I would have to weigh in on mindful single tasking as to relationships. Doing more than one thing at a time as you spend time with your partner or child normally does not work well. And of course there are exceptions. But in general without attention and focus, relationships suffer and problems develop.

multi task versus serial chart

So in summary, my take on this issue is . . 

  1. Decide each day what is most important and focus on that.
  2. Be ok with letting go of stuff that does not really matter.
  3. Multi-task when you must, but limit this to when it really has to happen.
  4. Do be MINDFUL or give full attention whenever you can.
  5. Remember your relationships will grow and strengthen with full attention and focus.
  6. Let your mind rest and “be with” whatever you have chosen to focus on, letting go of all the “other things” that are waiting on your “to do” list.

Good luck in finding the best balance with how to manage your time for yourself, your professional life and your personal relationships. Keep in mind you are more than your “to do” list!

4 Deep Breaths Can Change YOUR Life

Profile of Face with Swirls

So how can 4 deep breaths change your life? It can give you the time to calm your brain and react in the way you most want or desire. We hear a lot today about meditation and breath work and the wonderful benefits of being able to lessen our anxiety and really clear the chatter and chaos from our brain. In this application, I am talking about doing something that we all can do with minimal effort. This is not an hour meditation, not to say that this would not be incredibly helpful for us. This is simply using what we have accessible in our everyday life to calm our mind and body – OUR BREATH. It is a way to allow us to be more in charge of creating the life we want.

I might add if you can combine this with a question of what do I need or want OR a positive “self talk” statement this will further aid you in creating the life and relationships you so desire.  This is a powerful combination for sure. I hope you will try it for yourself.

There are different strategies that can be used when doing breath work. From very simple to more complex. Here are some beginning possibilities to consider.

  1. To begin breath work you may want to just do a simple slow deep breath in and a slow deep breath out. 4 cycles of breath is a good goal. But it does not have to be exact.
  2. The next may be a  simple slow 4 count of breath coming in and a slow 4 count of breath coming out. Again 4 cycles being the approximate goal to calm yourself.
  3. In some yoga circles, the 4 square breath is used  This is a 4 count breath in, a holding of breath for 4 counts, 4 count breath out and then a holding of the breath for 4 counts. And then a continuation up to 4 breath cycles.
  4. Dr. Andrew Weil has a 4-7-8 breath exercise that can be used with some practice. You can check out the video below if you want to see his demonstration of this method that he teaches all of his patients. First blow out all of your air through your mouth. Then breath in through your nose to a count of 4, hold for a count of 7 and then breath out of your mouth to a count of eight. Do for 4 cycles, but no more.

Please Note: For some situations the most simple can be the most fitting. This is for you to decide what best fits for you and the situation in front of you Perfectionism is not the goal but learning something simple you can access easily where your breath becomes slower, deeper and quieter. I might also note this can also be used with children as well, especially  the simpler versions.

I am listing some examples of how this might be used in everyday life below for your consideration. You will find this can be applied to most any situation in which you are having upset or confused feelings about or having feelings of wanting something that is not healthy for you.

  • Situation: You are arguing with your spouse and you find it escalating and not nice things are being said to one another.
  • You Take 4 Deep Breaths: Your mind and body calms.
  • You Ask Yourself: “How can I say what I want to say respectfully?” OR “How do I say this without hurting _______?” OR “What can I do to lower this escalation?”
  • You Tell Your Self: “I am calming down, I can think more clearly.” OR “We can work this out.” OR “We need to take a break and come back.”

woman and man with wall between but holding hands and heads against wall

  • Situation: You are trying to lose weight. You are hungry and want something to eat and it is mid afternoon. You REALLY need something to eat.
  • You Take 4 Deep Breaths: Your mind and body calms.
  • You Ask Yourself:  “What does my body need right now?”
  • You Tell Your Self: “I am calm and can choose what is best for me.” OR “It feels good to choose what my body really needs.”

 woman with apple on her bicep arm

  • Situation: You are feeling anxious. You are in a job interview and feeling nervous.
  • You Take 4 Deep Breaths: “Your mind and body calms.”
  • You Ask Yourself:  “What can I say that is most helpful for me?”
  • You Tell Your Self: “I am calm. I can think clearly and show my best self.”

 woman interview with calm face at at table

 

So when you feel upset, mad, anxious or feel yourself getting ready to do something not good for you, TAKE 4 DEEP BREATHS. It is worth your time to calm yourself and do what you really desire to do.  Your body is a beautiful creation designed to help you. So use your breath, it could just possibly change your life!