How to Stay Present in a World that Loves Multitasking

June 22, 2017 by Renee Raymond

Your day demands a lot from you.  You have to make dinner, get ready for school, complete a report for work, take your kids to the park… the list goes on and on.  You may find yourself wondering where the time goes during the day, or be in shock that you’ve arrived at the end of the work week so quickly.  Our lives and the world around us demand so much of our time and concentration that our brains think and worry about a litany of things, while distracting us from the present.  We can often find ourselves on “auto-pilot”, forgetting many key aspects of what we’ve actually done.  Our daily schedule will be full, and our engagement, not so much.

Being present and engaged in what is happening in front of us can be hard when we are trained to value multi-tasking.  Science has dispelled the myth of multitasking time and time again, noting that we don’t actually engage in more than one task at a time, but rather we shift our attention between tasks.  If we consider a situation where we are speaking to a person in front of us and browsing through Instagram simultaneously, we often believe that we can do both things and be fully engaged.  The truth is, we’re not.

To stay present and get the full value out of life’s experiences is clearly challenging, but not impossible.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind to stay engaged throughout the day:

  • Limit distractions.

Stop playing with your phone when the person in front of you is speaking to you, or wait until the show you’re watching is finished before trying to finish a report for work.  Trying to do more than one task at a time has our mind constantly shifting from one thing to the next, making it difficult for our mind to learn to focus for long bouts of time.

  • Make time for the things that are important to you.

We often try to do everything and then end up accomplishing nothing.  If something is important to you, schedule a specific time in your day to do these things that matter to you.  The world around us asks so much from us that we often procrastinate or simply forget to do the things that bring us the most joy.

  • If your mind wanders, bring yourself back.

With so many things on the go it’s easy to become “scatter brained”, and worry about tomorrow’s problems.  If you find that your mind is wandering while doing things that matter to you, bring yourself back into the present by noticing 5 things you can feel your body making contact with.  Next, notice five things in your environment that you can see or hear.  This small exercise helps you to bring attention to your body in space, and helps to bring your focus back to where you are in relation to the world.

renee-raymond

Source:  American Psychological Association.  (2006).  Multitasking: Switching Costs.  Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/research/action/multitask.aspx

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