Sunday, October 12, 2008

Can you walk and chew gum at the same time?

In case you missed it, multitasking is not all it’s cracked up to be. We think we can get more done and be more efficient when we do two or more things at once, but, as in so many things, more is not necessarily better. More shoes, more friends, more books and more money do not necessarily make us better, happier or more fulfilled. Okay, maybe money. But really, it’s quality, not quantity that matters, right? Okay, except for money.

I recall the time I was driving back from the airport, a trip I’ve made countless times, talking on my hands-free cell phone. I added about 30 minutes to the trip circling around Atlanta after missing my interstate exchange. Had I waited to make the call once I arrived, 30 minutes earlier, I would have had plenty of time to really focus on the call, and my exit.

This is something that comes up in improving life balance. The idea is to mindfully focus on what you’re doing so you get the most out of the experience and put the most into it.

I’m watching Grey’s (trying to relax), doing my nails (trying to engage in self-care), folding laundry and baking cookies (yup, having a homemaking moment). McDreamy won’t care, but my nails will probably leave a little to be desired, the cookies may not be perfect (no surprise there) , it will undoubtedly take me at least three times as long to get the laundry folded and I seriously doubt that much relaxation is occurring. So much for life balance, mindful focus and getting the most out of my experience. But if it all gets done in the hour, and the cookies aren’t burnt, it’s all good, right?

This is something that comes up in improving attention. The idea is to really try to get yourself focused on what you’re doing in order to be able to do a good job.

I’ll admit it, I do a lot of multitasking while on the phone, even when I’m not driving. But if I’m really honest about it, I know that both my conversation and the task I’m trying to combine it with, suffer as a result. I’m simply not paying enough attention to each task. I know that while kids are texting in class, they’re not hearing the teacher. I suppose that’s their plan.

Consider having a tiff with a friend on the phone, trying to pay bills on line and cooking dinner, all at the same time. You friend might rightly feel like they’re not being heard, AT&T might get the mortgage payment (surely your cell bill isn’t that high) and who knows how dinner will turn out. I know these things all seem easy, but consider that your attention isn’t really on all three things simultaneously, it shifts from one to another rapidly, missing little pieces of each.

So whether you’re trying to achieve balance or trying to concentrate, it’s worth considering limiting yourself to one thing at a time. And sure, I can walk and chew gum at the same time, but not while talking on my cell, holding an umbrella and walking the dog.

For an oldie but goodie, listen to The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) Simon & Garfunkel for inspiration to slow down..

No comments: