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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Monday Meditation: One Thing At A Time

Look familiar?

The truth is, today's world is a world of immediacy! No one can wait for anything - it's got to be right now, if not yesterday. Trying to keep up means trying to get more done in less time, so we find ourselves multi-tasking. Inevitably this leads to
distraction, and our "tasks" are completed sloppily, or we misplace our keys, or we forget something at the grocery store because we're talking on the phone while picking up items to make dinner that night.

Today's meditation from Madonna Gauding's The Meditation Bible is about focusing on one thing at a time to increase our efficiency:

Time-management specialists encourage multi-tasking, but in the long run it is stressful and inefficient. Learning to focus on one task at a time with loving attention is not an easy accomplishment. Underlying multi-tasking there is often a competitive and aggressive motivation. In other words, if you get more done in less time, it means you are smarter, more competent and more successful. You may get more done but you never really focus on anything. The quality of your work and you life suffers. Try this meditation to recognize the negative effects of multi-tasking and the positive benefits of working on one thing at a time. Although it won't seem like it at the time, the best opportunity to try this is when you are feeling that there is too much to do and too little time to do it in:

Let's Meditate!

1) Pick any task, such as responding to emails or cooking, then do something else as well. Cook dinner and watch TV at the same time. Make a call while checking email. Afterwards, note how you feel and how you performed your tasks.

2) Do the same or similar tasks over again, only this time concentrate on one task only. Cook mindfully and give your full attention to your telephone call. Again, note how you feel and how you performed your task.

3) Later, sit on a cushion or chair and recall how you felt while multi-tasking. Try to recreate mentally how you feel when trying to do many things at once. Stay with your feelings for a few minutes. Then recall how you felt when you devoted your total attention to a single task and stay with those feelings for a few minutes.

4) If you felt better focusing on one thing at a time, continue to approach as many tasks as you can in this way. You may notice, over time, that your work will be more precise and well done, and you will feel more relaxed, centered and in control of your life.

I can already tell you this is going to be challenging for me! Between kids, business, husband, household, dogs etc, it is difficult to not be doing one thing while subconsciously thinking about or doing another. That's where the mindfulness come in. I do believe that it is much healthier and in the long run more efficient to do things one at a time and with attention. It is something I am reminding myself of all the time!

I'm not sure I agree with Madonna Gauding's classification of muti-tasking as an aggressive and competitive action (although I can see how it could be in a work environment); I see multi-tasking more as fear based - we are afraid that we can't get everything done unless we do many things at once. Again, I think it is a natural by-product of how technology has trained us to have, want and send things immediately in real-time. There is rarely the cushion of time to permit ourselves to take care of things as they come and in due time.

I wonder what it's going to be like 20 years from now?

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