Why multitasking won’t save you time (but mindfulness will)
WHEN I WAS STILL BUSY competing in the rat race, during my life before mindfulness, I constantly struggled with a lack of time.
And so I adopted the 'smart' art of multitasking
I would use my lunch break to do the groceries, in order to save time at the end of the day. After my work I raced home, and used the ‘saved’ grocery time to put a wash in the washing machine, before rushing to the kitchen and make dinner.
After dinner I would hang the laundry to dry, but not before I had efficiently loaded the dishwasher so that that machine could start doing its job while I ran upstairs to fold away the dry laundry and hang the wet laundry to dry.
When I had done that, the dishwashing cycle would be completed (a short, eco-friendly but, more importantly, quick cycle) and so I made sure to have an empty dishwasher ready for the next day.
Only then I would allow myself to make a cup of coffee. No, not to then lazy away on the couch and watch a movie or read a book, but to crawl behind my computer to complete an assignment so that the next morning I could start a new assignment, imagining that finally I would really get on top of my to-do list for once and for all.
The great thing about the illusion of multitasking is that it makes you feel as if you’re totally in control of your planning and saving massive amounts of time.
And, if you come to think of it, you do actually save a bit of time. A few seconds here… maybe even a whole minute there. Let’s say that, if you plan all your tasks really precisely and the outside world is willing to collaborate with you (no traffic jams, for example, and a deserted supermarket at 6 pm), you will easily save 5 to 10 minutes on a whole day.
For argument’s sake, let’s go for the most positive scenario – you might be able to win a whole hour when you’d multitask with pure dedication and strict discipline.
It’s my guess that 90% of the people would waste this whole precious hour watching cat videos on Facebook or some other social network – hey, I watch cat videos so I’m allowed to ridicule it :-)
But back then, during those rat race years, there wasn’t any Facebook yet, and so I mindlessly clogged all my ‘saved’ time with more of the same tasks, instead of doing something which would nurture rather than exhaust me.
Not so surprising that, when I turned 37, I ended up with a massive burn out which put my whole life on hold.
Only much later, when my overstressed brain was completely cleaned and revised by the mindfulness training course, I could see that all that planning, thinking ahead and multitasking hadn’t given me any more time at all. On the contrary, it had only given me more and more tasks to complete within those very same 24 hours of the day.
As I was hurrying and trying to find new ways of how to use my time more and more efficiently, I couldn’t see that, in fact, I was rushing past my own life.
To hang around and have a chat with my husband after dinner was quite impossible as I needed to hurry up to load the dishwasher and do a million other urgent tasks. Not only did this attitude damage my health, but also my relations.
Multitasking is mindlessly judging all your time to be ‘good’ time and ‘bad’ time
What I did in that state of mindlessness, was dividing time into two kinds of time – ‘good’ time and ‘bad’ time. I considered chore time – doing the groceries, doing laundry, cooking, tidying the kitchen, cleaning the cat litter box – to be ‘time of some seriously lesser quality’. Of course, I wanted to work through this hopelessly unworthy time as quickly as possible, in order to have ‘good’ or ‘superior’ time to work and do some really useful stuff.
I couldn’t see that, as human beings, we live all the time, no matter how we label it.
Because, due to the illusion of multitasking, I wrestled through so much ‘second-class’ time, not realising that in that ‘lesser’ time I was also breathing and living, I actually lived only 50% of my life. No surprise that, after many, many years, my body, spirit, heart, and soul had enough of my discriminating attitude and ruthlessly switch me off.
Practise mindfulness today
You can practise mindfulness today by being aware that all your time is yours and precious, and worthy of your attention and gratitude.
We usually only value time when we’re experiencing ‘good’ time, such as a romantic dinner, or reading a book in the park, or enjoying a sailing trip.
But practising mindfulness while spending ‘inferior’ time can help you transform and appreciate all your time.
So today, try to appreciate as many tasks and events as if it’s all ‘good’ time.
Instead of hastily put on the kettle only to be able to later enjoy your breakfast with a freshly brewed pot of tea…
you now first breathe in and out
you pick up the kettle or waterboiler and have a good look at it; breathe in and out and let go of your impatience
now open the tap and watch the miracle of fresh, clean water to flow from the tap automatically
now you watch carefully how this beautiful water flows into the kettle
feel how the weight of the kettle increases; be aware of the muscles in your arm and how these contract
breathe in and out and feel how this relaxes you
then you put the kettle on the gas, or you switch the water boiler on; watch and listen to the kettle until the water boils
only now you are going to consciously make tea – you are taking everything you need for breakfast from the cupboards; you then sit at the kitchen table fully aware of what you’re doing; you pour the tea in your cup
you continue to breathe consciously while you enjoy your toast, eggs or your muesli
This is an easy way to add value to all that time that you have at your disposal. Simply because you choose to value this time consciously.
So instead of hurrying and rushing mindlessly, you now take the time to look at all these ‘rush tasks’ and feel inside how all those movements, those expectations and feelings of restlessness, and those judgements about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ time actually affect you.
And most probably you’ll suddenly understand that all time is precious – the time that you spend while on your dream holiday, the time you spend cleaning the toilet, and all that time in between these two extremes, like walking upstairs, switching on the computer, combing your hair, walking downstairs, unlocking your bike, walking to the bus, spending time in a traffic jam, checking your messages, cooking a meal, walking the dog, putting the garbage out…
As soon as you can find patience for ‘lesser’ time and experience this time in full awareness rather than trying to rush through it, you give life the opportunity to express itself to you in all its beauty.
Each and every minute of your life – including the minutes you spend on mundane or annoying tasks – is deserving of being lived and experienced consciously.
Simply because they are your life too.
P.S. Would you like to learn how to live your life without time dominating you? Then buy my digital Karma Kickstart course today. You don't have to learn to meditate, but you can start right away with super practical exercises which adapt easily to your everyday routines. With my approach you don't have to plan or schedule – you simply practise with your daily tasks.
So check out Karma Kickstart now and start enjoying a relaxed life today.