Last weekend I attempted to drop multitasking. I hoped to be a little more focused, perhaps to enjoy and appreciate my activities a little more, and to avoid having the hours slip by attending to a lot of little nothings. The surprising thing was how productive I was (although it probably shouldn’t have, since I do know of the research on multitasking and attention). Once I took away all the distractions, choosing one thing to focus on meant that I didn’t waste time splitting my attention between many things or have my attention caught by something else. I wrote and blogged more, which is satisfying because I so often have a brain clogged with thoughts and ideas that I don’t get around to expressing. I watched less television. I carried out my online business without getting distracted and forgetting. (By which I mean things like emailing or paying bills; unfortunately, I don’t have a multi-million-dollar online business empire. Yet.)
I found it also made a significant difference to my mindfulness and how relaxed I felt. (One of my intentions with Drop One, Add One is to be realistic and not to get caught up in a lot of the big lifestyle cliches that float around. They are things like: “You must be present in every moment to be truly happy.” They undoubtedly have truth, but merely knowing those statements doesn’t help most of us figure to out the everyday steps we have to take.)
Choosing only one thing to focus on and then giving all my attention to that one thing made a surprisingly easier to allow myself to be in the moment. I’ve come to feel that I should be filling up every moment with activity – with multiple activities. Just sitting with a single task and knowing that I wouldn’t turn my attention to anything else meant that I relaxed and enjoyed what I was currently doing. When I was writing letters to my friends, I even sat outside in the morning sun to write them. I couldn’t have done that in multitasking mode. I would have had to have my laptop out downloading things and the television on to check on the tennis and I would have had to be making or eating breakfast at the same time. I couldn’t have gone outside!
So, something as simple as applying a unitasking approach meant that I was more mindful, more relaxed and more productive without any real effort. It was easier to turn my attention to the things I wanted to get done. Writing those letters and email to my friends would normally have been something that I struggled to get around to doing, even if I wasn’t doing anything else particularly important. Remembering to unitask meant that anything I did I did with my whole attention, so it may as well have been finally writing those letters and connecting with friends!