The Cost of Multi-tasking Vs. Mindfulness. Is Multi-tasking Over-Rated and Not Worth It?

Not only is our constant craving to be stimulated a problem, but also how we align ourselves with this cultural rat race.  We as mothers in particular wear a proud badge of how awesome we are at multi-tasking. Checking the mail while breast-feeding, while making a call to clear up a mysterious charge on our Amex, while cooking dinner on the stove. Not a problem. We can get stuff done--right? I recall even putting down on my resume once, a long time ago, “excellent at multi-tasking.” I listed it as an acquired skill, one that took practice and proudly touted that I was better at it than most people so you should hire me!

However, clinical research is now emerging in abundance that is proving otherwise. We are actually terrible multi-taskers. One study recently published from the University of California- Irvine revealed that not only do people tend to switch activities alarmingly every 3 minutes during the course of a day, but it takes them significantly longer to get back on task, and all of that ricocheting leads to higher levels of stress, frustration, mental effort, feeling of time pressure and mental workload. To read more about that study click here.

One of the first things you will discover from doing a meditation practice is how much time you will actually gain. You will notice that your mind will feel more alert and energized and in your newly found wakefulness your body and mind will become naturally more organized, scaling down the amount of time you oscillate between activities. This increase in efficiency and productivity has been measured repeatedly in studies. Not only are you task oriented, you feel an increase in your time and a decrease in your sleepiness, because you are no longer exerting so much of our energy by trying to multi-task.  We waste so much time thinking and ruminating in the past, or are preoccupied about our future which leads to depression, anxiety or worry. That sentence alone can illuminate how an unfocused mind can exhaust us, deplete us, and lead to severe mental and physical conditions. 

Most of the time we are not busy, we are just preoccupied. We have too much preoccupation in the mind. Thinking about the past or the future, not allowing ourselves to be in the actuality of our present life, our present mind, our present body. What if we took a video of our day, if we hired a video camera man and asked them to walk around with us and filmed us during our day? What would that look like? Perhaps we would discover how many unnecessary things we are actually doing in our day. We have time to gossip, we have time for Facebook, we have time to take care of everything and everyone else, but not take care of ourselves. No wonder we are so freakin’ tired. I used to think I had no time to meditate in my hectic schedule…where can I fit it in? I used to be a martyr and can identify with a busy day….like it almost defined me and if I wasn’t busy, busy, busy then I would be unaccomplished, or the great mom guilt would arrive and invite itself in. The guilt imprisoned me and strengthened that voice inside my head. You know that voice. The one that tells us that even if we do have a second to sit down and breathe and be with ourselves, we feel we need to be doing something...anything. Look busy, act busy, create busy, or........or what? We become less than? We dissolve into nothingness?  We become invisible, disappear inside ourselves, and are unimportant? Where does this come from? This judgment of guilt, of self-sacrifice to the degree of our own depletion, lack of nourishment and the cause of our very own suffering. 

A mindfulness meditation practice made me suddenly see the quality of my life in a very different way. It shined a light on my suffering and made me realize that I single-handedly was the one creating least in this judgment of guilt when not doing something and just sitting, or being in a moment, still, quiet, peaceful and content.  My life became very different when I dropped this judgment. I love my still, quiet place. I visit it often. It is my home and can be touched at any moment. My mommy mantra is "Deep within me, there is a stillness, that cannot be disturbed." (adapted from the book, Mommy Mantras.)

If we make time to meditate, it will make a huge difference, you will see. If our mind became more organized, these unnecessary words or actions will disappear, then we will have more than enough time.