Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Multi--tasking and mindfulness

It seems clear that women are better at multi-tasking than men. Whether that's because they have to be, or whether that's a good thing for any of us, is a different matter.

This woman seems quite cheerful about it all, though her little spud may be just about to delete a morning's work....Three people close to my heart have to do a lot of this sort of thing these days.

One thing is pretty definite; mental multi-tasking is not what you want in meditation, nor, says Larry Rosenberg*, in life.

"People sometimes ask "how can I get anything done if I do only one thing at a time?" Actually, we can be more effective. There is better attention and less tension when we do just one thing, and these factors more than balance the time that is saved by doing several things at once."

 I think he's not necessarily right in the short term - we're social animals, and sometimes our social (work) environment demands multi-tasking, but I'm sure we should avoid it when we can. I'm also sure he's absolutely right in the long term, because multi-tasking is a strain. It wears you out.

What he does urge us to do is to be pliable as well as steady in our attention. 

If a child runs into the room with a nasty cut and you're just filling the teapot with boiling water, it's multi-tasking time - no good saying "I just need to be mindful of the moment, and I'm making tea. Be with you in five." 

But even in this sort of instance, it's down to the quality of attention we bring to what we're doing. In fact, crises, even mini-crises like this one, often result in our being very firmly and clearly in the moment. But multi-tasking when you don't really need to, out of habit?

TS Eliot nailed it: "distracted from distraction by distraction."

Sounds to me like a definition of much of what's on Facebook....

* "Breath By Breath," Larry Rosenberg with David Guy.

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