How I Learned To Focus: Stop Multi-tasking

blog-multitask

Do you ever have that feeling that the world just moves too fast?

Don’t get me wrong, I think that Technology is great but there are days when I feel that I am surgically attached to my phone and am a constantly relapsing Facebook addict. Do you know what I mean?

I was talking to a friend of mine a little while back via Skype. She had her laptop on the kitchen bench while she was cooking. She was also answering text messages every now and then on her phone and shouting out help to her 7 year old who was doing homework at the kitchen table …. and this seemed perfectly normal to me until I really stopped to think about it.

What’s going on?

When did our lives become this mass multi-tasking operation? Who says that we have to be a master of all things and available for action 24/7?

If you go to the movies you have to be told to switch your phone off. They have to tell you. They do this because you know as well as I do that if they don’t, you are gong to disturb everyone around you and miss part of the screening because you’re too busy posting photos of your popcorn on Instagram!

We need to stop.

We need to ease up on the multi-task and work on our mono-tasking.

I know you are thinking I’m crazy right now. You’re thinking, ‘I have a million and one things to do today; work, errands, chores, kids, other people’s kids, dogs, cats, friends, family, car stuff, banking and I can’t possibly not do any of these things and, and, and,and ….

STOP.

Breathe.

STOP THE RIDE I WANT TO GET OFF …

There has become a real expectation in our society that we should ‘have it all’ and ‘do it all’. If you are a working woman you are still expected to keep a pristine home, bake fresh cookies for the school bake sale, take your children to every activity imaginable, be emotionally ‘available’ to your friends at all times and be a perfect girlfriend/wife. I hear a lot from women who feel as though their every waking minute is taken up with doing something for someone else. The consequence? They feel exhausted, overwhelmed, unappreciated and often have a lack of self-esteem because they don’t feel that they fit the perfect image of what they should be.

If this is you. If you feel frazzled, overwhelmed and you just want the merry-go-round to stop, I have some strategies to help you. Even if you don’t feel that your situation is quite that bad but you’d just like to take your foot off the gas a little, I’ve gotcha. It’s time to get your mono-tasking head on and slow your world down a little bit. Here are my top five tips for leading a life less busy.

HOW I LEARNED TO FOCUS: STOP MULTI-TASKING

#1 LEARN TO SAY NO

If this sounds like you raise your hand:

  • If people ask you to help out you will generally say yes, even if you don’t really want to do it.
  • You tend to over-commit yourself at work, home or with your friends to keep everyone happy.
  • You find it hard to tell people you can’t or don’t want to do something.
  • You find it hard to ask for help.
  • You feel exhausted from trying to be ‘perfect’ all of the time.
  • You apologize for yourself …. a lot!

MY CONFESSION

I’m going to hold my hand up here and admit to being a ‘yes girl’. Learning to say no, is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do and I figured out some time ago that this is because I’m a people-pleaser.

If you identify with this you will often find yourself in a downward spiral. The lower your self-esteem, the more you try to please in order to make yourself feel better. Often this translates into over-committing yourself and taking on too many tasks at one time. The consequence is that you feel overwhelmed and out-of-control and this leads to even lower self-esteem as you try to achieve that elusive ‘perfect’ state.

If this is you, I’ve created a free step by step strategy sheet to give you the support you need to learn to say no. You can download it by signing up in the box below. It isn’t easy to do, but I promise that with practise and perseverance, just like me you can stop being a ‘yes girl’.

#2 UNPLUG YOUR LIFE (NOW AND THEN)

MY RANT ABOUT MOBILE PHONES

I’m just going to take a moment here to have a rant about mobile phones. Feel free to skip this next paragraph, or at least read from a safe distance. It’s something I’m pretty passionate about!

Remember the time before mobile phones? No, neither do I really but there was one and guess what? People survived. According to the Pew research Centre, 92% of Americans own a cellphone with 67% being a smartphone. It’s the must-have piece of tech in our social arsenal and I believe that it is really changing us. We are slowly losing the ability to occupy ourselves, enjoy silence or read a map ( guilty – what would I do without my Google Maps App, yikes!)

Stuck at a stop light for a few minutes: check your phone. Waiting in the line to check out at a store: check your phone.  Watching TV and the adverts come on: check your phone.

When was the last time you just sat with your own thoughts?

The other thing our phones do to us, is turn us into a mobile newsfeed for our family and friends. Just cooked a great omelette? Send a picture to your Dad. Bought a new pair of awesome shoes? Send a picture to your sister. I am all for keeping in touch and sharing seminal family moments but is it really necessary to provide people with a constant live streaming of our day-to-day events?

Can you remember going out for dinner with someone or just sitting talking to them without any interruptions from their mobile phone? It’s actually kinda sad. Maybe it’s time to put some distance between us and our phones and get back to being ‘in the moment’ a little bit more.

OK rant over…. for now!

IT’S HOW WE ARE MADE … WE THINK OUR PHONES MIGHT BE DINNER

Our hunter-gatherer brains make us naturally alert to sharp sounds and we are hard-wired to respond. When you hear that alert telling you that you’ve received a message it is practically impossible for you to ignore. This level of alertness really helped us as big hairy cavemen looking to snag a deer for dinner but it isn’t really a skill we need for answering a message from Auntie Mary. What this means for you though, is that it’s going to be hard for you to take time-out from your devices unless you have a strong game plan.

Nomophobia is the irrational fear of being out of mobile contact – yes, mobile phones actually have their own phobia. A study carried out by the UK Government in 2010 found that 53% of mobile phone users felt overly anxious when they lost their phone, ran out of credit or battery power or couldn’t get service.

This is a real problem.

If you would like some practical strategies to implement in your every day life for both you and your children, if you feel that you are spending to much time connecting with your online life at the expense of your ‘real life’; please sign up in the box below and download my free strategy sheet: Unplug Your Life.

#3 LIVE IN THE MOMENT

Do you sometimes feel that although you are physically in the middle of one thing your mind is already thinking about the next task? I know I do. It’s as though I’m one step ahead of myself but it doesn’t actually make me feel focused or accomplished. Quite the opposite. It lessens my concentration on the task in hand and makes me feel stressed.

Maybe you sometimes find yourself switching feverishly from one task to another. Emails one minute, then onto social media all while trying to cook or write a report or answer an important phone call: multi-tasking to the max.

Studies conducted by the American Psychological Association showed that switching between tasks reduces how productive you are by as much as 40%. That means that stopping one job you are doing to check your email or Facebook will make it much harder to get back on track and focus.

In order to prevent this multi-tasking brain burnout  you have to change the way you carry out tasks and manage your time more effectively. Silencing your phone and dividing your day into manageable time slots can work really well. Here’s some helpful strategies to get you started:

  • If you like to check your email often, try setting aside 4 x 20 minute time periods in the day which you will exclusively devote to reading and answering emails. This is obviously a flexible arrangement depending on your business and personal needs.
  • When you are having a conversation with a friend, eating dinner out or listening to your child, switch yourself on. Make a conscious effort to be present in that moment. Really take in and absorb the other person and your surroundings. I tried doing this fairly recently and it is an incredibly empowering and positive feeling. I know that I personally had forgotten how to truly ‘be in the moment’. Please try this and let me know your feedback in the comments at the end of this blog post.
  • Make a note of how long you spend on Facebook per day. Set yourself a realistic timeframe and stick to that. Do not check your account at other times.
  • Make a conscious effort to be ‘all in’. When embarking upon a new task tell yourself how long you will devote to that one thing and stick to it. Feel the pleasure of that focus and congratulate yourself on your high level of engagement.

#4 GET HELP

If you are struggling with your commitments. Ask. For. Help.

I know how you are feeling as I write those words but seriously. DO IT.

I can tell you, this one is a biggie for me for me too. As a people pleaser, this very concept goes against my natural instincts. I am definitely part of the everything-is-fine-Jack-brigade, and I’m an A+ student when it comes to ‘managing’. There are many other personality types that are also highly resistant to asking others for help and really, let’s face it, it sucks.

If you are suffering from overwhelm, take up those kind offers from friends and family. Allow them to pick up some of the slack. You know what else you can do? Pay it forward. Make genuine offers to help other people too. Once you realize that we are actually all in the same boat; these  choppy waters become a little easier to navigate.

#5 DO SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF EVERY DAY

Right on cue, here comes Mr Guilt knocking on your door. You are far too busy to go do the things you want to do. What will your boss think if you don’t get all of those tasks done by Thursday afternoon? You should spend more time with your children – you’re a bad mother if you don’t. Stay at home mom or working from home? … Shame on you, that’s not ‘real work’ so you don’t deserve any downtime. Blah, blah, blah!

No.

One of my favorite sayings is: ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup’.

Look after yourself.

One of the ways you can switch off the multi-task and learn to mono-task is by taking time each day to do one thing you enjoy … for yourself. This doesn’t have to be something you do alone and it doesn’t mean that you have to take 5 hours each day to go to the local Day Spa (although that would be nice!) It means setting aside some time each day, to appreciate yourself and reward yourself for everything you do. It means not taking yourself for granted but appreciating and acknowledging your self-worth.

On a daily basis.

Without distractions.

I really want you to try this. Please. Steal a little time for yourself. It can be as simple as enjoying a hot coffee or a glass of wine in peace, 20 minutes with a good book, a long hot bath with some candles or if you are a mom of small children, going to the toilet by yourself!

MY LITTLE CONFESSION

I have to ‘fess up here and tell you that I have always been a pretty cynical soul. The idea of focusing on a moment and allowing myself the pleasure of that snapshot in time still sounds a little woo-woo to me. But, I can also add, that having tried these methods, I have found a positivity and happiness that is truly enriching. Not everything is for everyone but be open – I only ask that you give these things a try.

As always I welcome your comments and feedback in the comment box below. Please let me know if you have success with any of these ideas or if you too have struggled with mono-tasking and overwhelm.

MY SELF-CARE TOP PICKS

If you are looking for a little more inspiration, here are my self-care top picks*. Click on the images to get more product information. Enjoy!

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 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jackie is a life coach specializing in Women’s Wellness and author of 5 Daily Habits To A Healthier Happier You. Read more about her journey HERE and sign up in the side bar to access her free health and wellness downloads.

12 thoughts on “How I Learned To Focus: Stop Multi-tasking

  1. TheOrdinaryGirl (@mash_01x) says:

    I totally understand what you mean and I have realized we are so scattered mentally that we find it hard to focus on one thing. There are so many ways to communicate yet there is no communication. I sometimes miss those times when we had just one landline at home and we all waited for our friends to call.

    Love your tips!

  2. squashculls says:

    This is surprisingly well written and has some great content. Old me needed to read this, and new me (since I started therapy etc.) likes it because it’s a nice reminder. Good job.

  3. Jocelynne Flor says:

    I used to be a chronic “multitasker” and wondered why I was so stressed and wouldn’t get anything done. Multitasking doesn’t really exist – we’re really just switching between tasks from moment to moment. Focusing on one thing actually helps to get things done way faster!

  4. Divya @ Eat. Teach. Blog. says:

    Can I tell you a funny story?
    My mom found your blog through your comment on my post and she screenshotted bits of this post to the entire family in our Whatsapp chat. We all have a tendency to be so so so connected to our phones because we want to be available for family that’s FAR that we tend to ignore the people right in front of us.

    Thanks or the post and thanks for being our family wisdom for today!

    • Stickinsectz says:

      That’s so funny! I was just telling my husband this morning how much I love reading your blog and he took my phone to look at the wine gifts to get ideas for Christmas presents!I love how the connections we make spread wider and wider 🙂

  5. lavenderdaydreaming says:

    I totally relate to this completely! I’m a huge procrastinator but these tips definitely help. Saying no and not multi-tasking are key. Thanks for sharing!

    I actually wrote about this in my life in balance post on my blog too 🙂

  6. ontherytepaige says:

    Very thoughtful! I think balance is the key to everything. I was born a multi-tasker, and won’t be slowing down anything soon, but that doesn’t mean I won’t make time for mindfulness and relaxing.

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