Struggle with multi-tasking? Me too. So let’s just do ourselves a favour and never do it again! (Wait, what?) Don’t fret, I’ll explain how that’s totally reasonable, and why multi-tasking is physically impossible to achieve. I listened to a podcast recently that dove into this very issue, and offers solutions on how to find your focus instead. (no I won’t tell you that you have to listen to the podcast, but I will say you’ll LOVE it if you have the time to! Link at the bottom)
Anyways, the podcast guest is Dr. Amishi Jha, and she’s the expert of focus and attention. She suggests that our attention is like a flashlight–which of course means it can only be pointed in one direction at a time–and “multi-tasking,” as we call it, is actually an exercise of stop and go, stop and go, jumping from task to task. Waving that flashlight back and forth, back and forth in an effort to find our focus. It’s important to note that this flashlight can be pointed externally or internally, but never both at the same time.
With societal expectations set that we should be able to achieve some level of multi-tasking, while tending to our internal dialogues as well, it’s no wonder we’re so exhausted all the time! In an effort to take control of that flashlight and refuel your energy stores she suggests practicing mono-tasking, which is when we choose to pay attention to one task at a time, and shine our flashlight focus onto it. This allows us to understand it fully, with each and every one of our senses coming to play too. When we do this we actually experience it more intensely, like turning up the volume on your life! This amplified attention literally locks in better quality memories because in that moment you are present, and noticing all the intricacies that make up the details of your memory. She says “A memory problem is often an attention problem.” Interesting…
And I think she knows what she’s talking about. She’s a neuroscientist with a passion for understanding attention and how we can improve it, she even wrote a book about it! “Peak Mind” it’s called (and I just might have to check it out!)
Back to the podcast lessons though. So, we’ve taken multi-tasking of your list of expectations and simplified it with mono-tasking. What can we do now to simplify our busy mind and achieve peace within ourselves?
Wait! Come back! (I saw that eye roll) I know this term has been thrown around a lot lately, and chances are you’re expecting me to say “clear your mind,” “find your zen,” or something equally as frustrating. One of the myths they talk about though is mindfulness equalling some unrealistic “blissed out” state. But, our minds are wired to drift and think and wander….which means getting distracted, easily! So this whole goal of clearing your mind is just another mission impossible they tell us we should be doing–who are they anyways, and what do they even know?
Anyways, a realistic step in achieving mindfulness is just noticing what’s happening around you; noticing when your thoughts drift to positive or negative, noticing how you’re acting, and noticing what you’re saying as well as how you’re saying it. It’s taking the information of what’s actually happening, without adding any story about it, and just being aware. Aware when your thoughts drift away from your current task, and then gently guiding it back on track. It’s using that flashlight to really amplify what’s happening right in front of you, experiencing it, and drinking in all the little details. It’s not about clearing “bad” thoughts from your mind, it’s about allowing your thoughts to happen, the good and the bad, and just owning them, honouring them, embracing them.
Really, mindfulness is quite simple in theory, just hard to achieve in practice. So be kind to yourself when you’re not a first time Rockstar.
Let’s wrap it up, shall we? My intention here was to inspire you with a taste of Dr Amishi’s work. Want more? Listen to the full podcast here:
“Finding Focus and Owning Your Attention” with Dr. Amishi Jha can be found at: brenebrown.com/podcast/finding-focus-and-owning-your-attention/
***This blog was originally a newsletter segment that was published in May 2022. If you enjoyed it and want to stay up to date with all my current work, please consider subscribing to my newsletter! You can do that by going back to the main page, or by clicking here: http://www.tarafurnemont.com Thank you!***