Tony Schwartz’s book, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, dispels the myth that human beings operate most productively in the same one-dimensional way computers do: continuously, at high speeds, for long periods of time, running multiple programs at the same time. He says we are most productive when we move between periods of high focus and intermittent rest.
I translate these periods of high focus to mean doing one thing at a time. Studies have shown when we focus on one thing at a time we are much more creative, productive, and fulfilled. Yet in these days of iPods, iPhones, and pads, we have more opportunity than ever to do multiple things at once. The whole world with all of its distractions is literally at our fingertips 24/7.
One way I practice my focus is in my yoga class. I am constantly reminded to bring myself back to the present, to focus on my breath, soften, and surrender. My busy mind starts to wander away, I bring it back again and focus on my breath. I leave my class refreshed and better equipped to do one thing at a time after practicing this in yoga.
What about you? Just for today, could you do one activity at a time and focus on it? When you drive, just drive. When you talk on the phone, just talk on the phone. When you wash the dishes, just wash the dishes. Instead of doing four things at once, be fully engaged in just one thing and see how you feel. I would love to hear about your experience.