When we think we're multitasking we're actually multiswitching. That's what the brain is very good at doing - quickly diverting its attention from one place to the next. We think we're being productive. We are, indeed, being busy. But in reality we're simply giving ourselves extra work.
So, what's the secret to multitasking?
Research conducted at Stanford University found that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. The researchers also found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.
Further, researchers at the University of Sussex in the UK compared the amount of time people spend on multiple devices (such as texting while watching TV) to MRI scans of their brains. They found that high multitaskers had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region responsible for empathy as well as cognitive and emotional control.
The secret to multitasking is - mindfulness: The practice of developing sustained, single-pointed concentration on one thing at a time. This is the 5th practice for living life wisely.
In reality, mindfulness is training the mind - your mind - to be more productive and more resilient. There are four kinds of mindfulness:
- Average mindfulness - the attention that springs naturally and spontaneously through our own interest in a particular person, situation, or phenomenon.
- Generated mindfulness - the type that we intentionally apply to particular objects of awareness in order to stabilise or deepen our understanding of them.
- Abiding mindfulness - when the well-trained mind is sufficiently tamed to rest naturally, without wavering, wherever it is focused.
- Innate mindfulness - where awareness itself remains undistracted from its own nature. In other words, there is no observer "I" noticing awareness within our consciousness.
- Begin by sitting in any way that's comfortable for you, somewhere where you can see the sky. Rest your body so that it can remain pleasantly motionless for a while, close your eyes, and take a couple of deep breaths to put yourself mentally and physically at ease. Then continue breathing in a natural manner, with full, relaxed breaths.
- With your eyes closed, let any thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations pass by like clouds in the sky, just observing their impermanent, dreamlike nature, and then coming back to rest in the present moment.When you find yourself mentally pursuing a particular thought, feeling or sensation, let go of it and gently return to an open awareness of simply sitting and breathing right now.
- When you feel settled in a calm alertness, open your eyes and, keeping them in a soft focus, gaze evenly into the space of the sky. Like the mind, this space is beginnings and endless, with no inside, outside, shape, or size. Each time you exhale, follow your out-breath into this emptiness until you become spacious awareness itself. Allow individual thoughts, feelings, and sensations to float freely away and dissolve, like clouds in the infinite sky.
- Continue breathing freely into space, letting everything go. Breathe the sky in and out. Keep the process flowing until you feel you are resting evenly in luminous, empty awareness, and dissolve into that!