Five Steps to Overcome Multitasking
Our society is built on multitasking. The more you do, the more gold stars you earn on the imaginary score card of twenty-first century living. Conditioned to push through each day, packing as many tasks and accomplishments in as possible, we are the real life Energizer Bunnies. But, with all of this multitasking, how do we fit in the basics? There is no longer time to rest, digest, and ruminate with a single activity or feeling. We are so wired on accomplishing goals, our brains are stuck in stress mode, meaning the littlest issues feel life threatening.
There is no longer time to rest, digest, and ruminate with a single activity or feeling. We are so wired on accomplishing goals, our brains are stuck in stress mode, meaning the littlest issues feel life threatening.
I used to be the queen of multitasking. Impressing folks with the number of tabs I could juggle on my computer screen, and my ability to seamlessly switch between creative and administrative tasks at work. Multitasking ruled my life. I couldn't sit with a single objective. Netflix was watched while crafting. Books were read while music played in the background. My phone was an extension of my hand. Then, things started to fall through the cracks.
Multitasking ruled my life. I couldn't just sit with a single task. Netflix was watched while I worked on a craft project. Books were read while music played in the background.
At first, I thought I had a memory problem. Halfway through a conversations, I had no idea what we were talking about. This went on for months, until I realized it wasn’t my memory at all. My lack of absorption is my body begging me to stop multitasking.
My lack of absorption is my body begging me to stop multitasking.
My brain was fatigued, shutting down during each conversation, or focusing on the stressors I toggled between on my computer screen. The fatigue led to insomnia, and 2am cold-sweat wake ups over the fear of unfinished tasks. As it turns out, multitasking isn't an achievement at all.
So, in a world built on achievements, how do we slow the multitasking?
- Schedules. Schedules, to-do lists, and prioritizing have eased me out of the multitasking life, plus any type of brain dump allows the brain to exit its stressor loop, allowing you to relax.
- Sitting with Yourself. Many times we multitask because we're not comfortable sitting with our own thoughts or feelings. It's okay. That's completely normal in our constant mental state of fight or flight. So take a break and ease into sitting with yourself. Start with a few minutes a day, and see where it takes you.
- Be realistic. I used to beat myself up if tasks weren't done on time until I realized most people don't complete everything on time and generally no one will be personally upset with me. I am not a robot, you are not a robot, and that is pretty awesome.
- Put down the phone. This one is hard, especially for those of us who use our phones for work and socializing, but even if it's switched to Do Not Disturb for a few hours a day, or if you leave it in the car while grocery shopping, your brain will thank you for the extra space.
- Embrace Silence. The world is noisy, so we’ve become accustom to the nosies of multitasking, yet the brain does it’s best work in silence. It may sound scary, but imagine what you could do if you turned off the car radio for ten minutes of your daily commute. Where would your brain take you? Chances are it’s probably somewhere creative you’ve been trying to go for ages.
With less multitasking, my work gets better, my anxiety lowers, and nothing feels as dire as it used to. I’m not saying giving up the multitasking lifestyle is easy, but it might make the rest of life a whole lot simpler.
Do you suffer from multitasking brain fatigue? Do you have tips on how quitting multitasking changed your life, or other stories about simplifying? Tell me about them in the comments!