Mindful Monday: Do the One Thing

A friend of mine wrote to me recently about a problem she’s having: the ability to multitask as well as she used to. She’s not old, suffering from dementia, or taking any medications with memory side effects, but she has been under a great deal of stress over the past few years. She tries to multitask and fails. She said:

The problem is expectations, in combination with past experience. It’s difficult to realize that I can’t do what I’m accustomed to doing, namely multitasking. My multitasking capabilities are severely compromised. So, it’s a matter of re-calibration to some extent. It’s not as easy as you might think, because this is an expectation which is almost hard-wired –- one that has been fulfilled again and again over the years, so that it has become something close to a truth. Except: it’s not.

I replied that maybe she’s having trouble multitasking precisely because she’s trying to multitask. “Do the one thing,” I said. I channeled Thich Nhat Hanh, saying, “When you walk, walk. When you eat, eat. When you answer the phone at work, answer the phone without also typing on the computer and lip-reading what your boss is saying to you all at the same time. When you walk toward the kitchen to make a smoothie, walk toward the kitchen to make a smoothie. Let go of the 10,000 things.”

Yesterday, I experimented with mindfully “doing the one thing” all day. It was harder than I expected. I frequently got distracted from the immediate goal. Example: I’m hungry and go to the kitchen to find something for lunch. Peering into the refrigerator, I think, “That shelf is dirty. I have to clean that up first… but jeez, there are lots of containers in here with really old food in them. I need to throw out that junk, and then I have to wash these containers because they smell bad. But look at all those crumbs on the floor! I need to sweep up. Boy, I’m hungry.” <Smacks head.> Twenty minutes after heading to the kitchen for lunch and getting distracted by doing the 10,000 things clamoring for attention, I finally remembered that I had indeed headed to the kitchen to make lunch. And this is the simple stuff! You know the level of complex multitasking we feel pressured to do in the workplace. No wonder our nervous systems get fried.

The rest of the day, I tried to attend consciously to the one thing. Example: as I slowly walked up the stairs, I told myself, “I’m walking up the stairs,” and felt the carpet underneath my bare feet, the wooden rail under my palm, the work of my legs lifting me upward. An ordinary moment… but one that usually passes me by when I take the stairs two at a time as fast as I can to get to my next task… which I forget because three other tasks grab my attention instead.

 Today, I invite you to do the one thing that each moment holds. What do you notice about your mind and your actual experience?

thichnhathanh328

Thich Nhat Hanh is doing the one thing. Are you?

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for Mindful Monday

© May 12, 2014, post, Donna Pierce
Photo credit: I couldn’t find the original link/source for this photo, so I will credit it to Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village Mindfulness Practice Centre, Loubès-Bernac, France.

#mindful #monday #findingGod

 

3 thoughts on “Mindful Monday: Do the One Thing

  1. I will be honest on this on … I don’t believe that humans actually can “multitask” and they delude themselves into thinking they can. I am not talking about walking and chewing gum -or- scratching an itch while you are brushing your teeth. I am talking about real multitasking like cooking dinner and writing a well thought out blog post. The result when you try are burnt food and a post that really does not get your point across.

    This is from my personal experience and watching people around me, not books, as I said above it was my opinion. I have watch my wife and kids try to play a game and carry on a conversation… Or watch them try to send a text and watch a television show. The result is always a disjointed experience that does not do justice to any of the experience. Afterward they look back at the conversation and say — I did not say that — but you can see their text / conversation was ambiguous. Their game play was not based on good choices, but based on responsiveness.

    So is multitasking even a good choice?

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    • I used to think multitasking was a good choice. I also used to think that I didn’t *have* a choice, especially in the work-outside-the-home world. Now I think I was wrong on both counts. Like my long-time friend in the blog post, I too have experienced a lot of stress and emotional trauma in the past several years and find that my ability to multitask has suffered as a result. Or I’m just getting old! What I’ve discovered over the years is that in attempting to multitask, I’d get strung out by the juggling act, did few of the tasks terribly well, and just end up anxious and exhausted with my thoughts zooming every which way. It’s no way to live life. Now I’m practicing doing the one thing. Better late than never.

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  2. Pingback: Multitasking and Mindfulness - Use Them Well and Find More Time!

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