I tried a new approach, to less multi-tasking and more focus on doing one thing at a time, with full awareness. I promised to try it for seven days, and report back on it. So here are my impressions from doing so:
- I am amazed at how very often I am multi-tasking, in ways that hadn't even occurred to me before. I don't ordinarily even drive to work without the radio on or a book on tape playing while I drive. This week, I drove to work without my usual distraction in the way of seemingly harmless entertainment and was amazed that I had time to focus on my workday ahead, to think about some problems and possible solutions, and to walk into the office fully ready to get to work with some things already preplanned. Plus, coming home, it was the same. I was able to think about some things I was grateful for and prepare for my evening with my husband. I'm not sure if I drove any better or not, but I felt more aware of what I planned to do and to reattune myself to transitions from home/work and work/home. I found myself looking forward to that unharried "windshield time" alone with my own thoughts.
- At the office, instead of keeping up my constant thread of incoming email messages and texts, I turned off my cell phone completely, as well as my Outlook work mail and my yahoo email account. I allowed myself certain periods of the day to check it - before getting started in the morning, at lunch and at 3:00 in the afternoon, and then again in the evening to check and respond to my personal email. That seemed to keep my mind off the newest, flashiest thing and onto my work at hand. Instead of having several spreadsheets and work projects open in Windows all at once on different panes of my computer, I kept as few as possible open and tried to focus on one task at a time. I felt I got some kinds accomplished work-wise this week that were important and had a stronger feeling of accomplishment all week.
- At home in the evenings, if I was watching TV, I only allowed myself to be with my husband and watch TV. If I was knitting or spinning, I did that without doing anything else. I spent less time knitting and watching TV, but seemed to get more accomplished. I worked only only ONE knitting project this week - which was the Slouchy hat for Emily. It was an easy project, made from my previously home dyed and spun yarn, but I was able to easily and effortlessly finish it this week and felt proud that I had it done in time for her visit from college this weekend.
- I had more, but shorter, meaningful conversations with my husband in person and my daughter by phone. We had better communication and got some decisions made that had been up in the air for a while.
- I worked on getting more planning down on our Guild's Spring Retreat. I'd been letting it slide a bit the past several weeks but realized we'd better get moving on it. I managed to set up a meeting for us all to meet again, and organized and gathered the material we will need to do it more effectively.
- I started thinking about and planning quick gifts that I could make this year for people's Christmas gifts, saving me some money, which is in short supply this year. I even tested out making some of Nikol's coconut handscrub, and it didn't turn out half bad!
- Bob and I spent one evening dedicating just ONE HOUR (we set a timer because the task was unpleasant) to finding and purging as much junk in our sub-basement as we could find. It was amazing what we managed to clear out of there in just one focused hour of effort together.
- I used an egg timer as an excellent tool this week to make myself clean out a drawer for 30 minutes. I used it to motivate me to exercise 3 times this week for 20 minutes.
- The hardest goat time of all was when I was riding passenger on a 3 hour business trip each way, and my colleague was driving. Normally, I would have pulled out my knitting and gone on "automatic pilot" for 3 hours distracting myself with sock knitting - and maybe even with an MP3 podcast playing in my ear. Instead, I used the time to engage in a very deep, meaningful conversation with this colleague both about the client we were getting ready to visit and how we might be able to meet those needs. We discussed everything in depth, and in paying attention, we were fully prepared and had an excellent meeting. On the way back, we talked about our company, our working together in our two jobs to combine efforts more effectively.
- I ended the week feeling much less harried, more centered in myself and prepared for the weekend.
- This weekend, I've been a little more harried and distracted, falling back into some of my old "mind numbing" ways of doing errands and doing several things at once. It felt all the more jarring because of the focused way I led the first five days of the week.
- What proved most effective and felt the best was keeping my attention on ONE THING, but not for nearly as extended period of time than I usually do. I gave myself frequent breaks and changed activities much more frequently, but getting more done during each focused session.
- Unpleasant tasks didn't seem nearly as unpleasant if done for a limited period of time.
- I rewarded myself by doing FUN things, like spinning for 20 minutes (when at home), or checking my email, or talking on the phone with a friend for stress relief. Or taking a brisk 15 minute walk with a colleague in the middle of the day.
Upshot: I'm going to be doing less multi-tasking in the future as I really see the benefit of single-minded attention. I also realized that it's a lot harder to do than one might imagine, but the results are surprisingly refreshing.