Last Monday morning, while I was meditating, the thought came into my head that I needed to become better at doing just one thing at a time. The irony wasn’t lost on me – my meditation practice is often filled with unwanted thoughts. I know that what I do outside of my practice has an impact on my meditation and I know that any kind of multi-tasking doesn’t help. It creates a habit of being over-stimulated and diminishes the capacity I have for focused attention.
So I put a post on Facebook to keep me accountable and I began.
1. I rediscovered small pleasures
I ate breakfast without reading the newspaper. The first thing I noticed was a niggle of boredom then I reminded myself to focus on what I was eating, which was freshly sliced tomato with goat cheese on beautiful organic seed bread toast. When I brought my attention to my sense of taste, every flavour was more intense. I was conscious of my sense of sight too. Looking out onto the garden, I took a moment to appreciate the green. I realised that it’s so much nicer way to begin my day this way, without politics and tales of all that is wrong in the world. In that moment, there was much to be appreciative of.
2. I learned that I’m habitually a multi-tasker
It would have been nice to be able to tell you that I discovered I don’t multi-task much at all. That wasn’t what I discovered! Despite years of meditating, I’m still addicted to multi-tasking. If I’m on the phone to a friend, I’ll make tea or start tidying my desk. If I’m waiting for a train or in a queue, I check email on my phone. If I’m reading or writing an article, I flick over to Google in a heartbeat to check a reference. I have multiple programs open on my computer at any one time. I’m one of those people who always has a long list of things ‘to do’ – which is habitual and not very helpful behaviour. I’ve since reviewed my list and culled some of the less pressing priorities so that I can focus my attention on what really matters.
3. Doing one thing at a time makes me happy
I knew that single-tasking would make me more focused and I suspected it would contribute to my sense of calm, but by the end of the week, after catching myself hundreds of times in the act of multi-tasking, I realised how much happier I felt. (I’m tempted now to jump on Google and research why, but I’ll leave that for later).
I’m committed to making ‘one thing at a time’ my new norm. Last night I found myself savouring a glass of red wine, appreciating the crackle of the open fire (rather than turning the music on) and feeling a deeper sense of connection with Chris by being fully present in our conversation.
I love how these things make me feel. I know that old habits are hard to break so I’m going to keep this up for all of May as I take part in the Mindful in May challenge. I’d love you to join me. You can sign up for Mindful in May here and join our Total Balance team. MIM is a great cause – and I think giving up multi-tasking is too.