Women are exceptional multitaskers. We often juggle a dozen tasks at once and wear it as a badge of honor for catching everything as it comes to us. Some might say it’s in our DNA, because we’re GOOD at it. And for mothers? Multitasking isn’t so much of a choice, but an inherent way of life.
Multitasking allows us to get things done efficiently and there’s always a time and a place for it, but efficient doesn’t always mean well. The more you juggle the more stressful life becomes and the more difficult it is to perform tasks well.
Also, in a recent episode of The Huberman Lab podcast, I learned that people that are more focused also experience more joy. Who doesn’t want more of that?
So how do we shift away from multitasking and toward more focused and joyful experiences?
We have to practice what I like to call radical presence.
Anyone that has read any new age or spirituality book in the last 20 years knows that presence is a big deal. Most of us are not only physically multitasking, but our minds are also somewhere else. Radical presence is when you’re physically and mentally focused on the very thing you are doing. Research has shown this has massive benefits for our health.
If you’ve ever experienced a “flow state” or a time when you’ve really enjoyed and were focused on what you were doing to the point that hours felt like minutes, then you know what this feels like. It’s easier to be present when we’re enjoying the activity at hand, but it’s more tricky when things are out of our comfort zone.
Here’s my advice for achieving that radical presence in nearly everything you do.
We live in a world that is incredibly distracting. You have seen the person at the gym on the elliptical always on the phone. Perhaps you are that person! They may think they are getting more done when in fact they are giving 50% to both activities. Your brain doesn't like being in a state of limbo with one foot in one activity and one in the other. It is uncomfortable and that discomfort leads to less joy and satisfaction.
The reason presence is so radical is because it’s SO rare, so you have to intentionally starve your distractions. You have to unapologetically put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” whenever you feel like it. You need to seek opportunities to have some “white space” in your brain. You don’t have to live like a monk, you need to seek out more opportunities for presence.
When we starve our distractions, we’re not only more at ease, but it allows opportunities for creativity. The reason we have “shower thoughts” is because it is one of the only times of the day when we have little distraction. Answers may appear out of thin air to our questions and problems, but only if we give them space.
When you are performing a task, however small, funnel your focus. You can start small. Try driving without music or podcasts or audiobooks for a little while. Try cooking or eating without having the TV on in the background. Break the habit of having your phone out on the table when you are out with a friend so you aren't setting up an expectation for others that you immediately answer.
Start small and choose just one task to funnel your focus on and see what that does for you. It may not be fun initially because habits are hard to break. But I guarantee you’ll feel a greater sense of joy in your activities in the long run.
Multitasking is overrated. Single-tasking is where the joyful people are! In a world always demanding your attention it is up to you to protect your focus and silo your thoughts. Just because we can do many things at once, doesn't mean we should. Set yourself up for focused moments throughout the day and you will not only be more efficient but you will find more joy in it. Remove the guilt and receive the joy.