Mindfulness and Multitasking on the Job

MultitaskingDo you practice multitasking on the job?  Have you ever tried to read your e-mail while you are talking on the phone? Maybe you have attempted to compose a letter and watch a training video? Send a text during a meeting?  What usually happens is that neither task gets done very well.  Your mind jumps between activities because you can’t focus on two things at once, and it can lead to errors.  I think we may fall into the trap of thinking we’ve got a little time before this finishes uploading or downloading or before so and so gets back to me, and we want to make the most the time at our disposal.  Yet, if we use those seconds or minutes to work on another task while we wait and it leads to error, then it is actually costing us more time.  Having to reread something or having to ask someone to repeat themselves might take a little more of our time.  Missing information critical to our job could result in us spending a great deal more time if we have to fix errors later.   Multitasking may seem like it will make the most of the time you have to get your work done, but that often isn’t the case.

Multitasking can also lead to unnecessary stress.  Switching between trains of thought can give you a feeling of being rushed, when no such urgency truly exists.  Let us think about what can happen if you decide to check your messages or e-mail while you are on hold on the phone.  In your mind, you may think “If I am going to get this done while I’m waiting, then I will have to hurry.”  Acting on that thought leads to rushing and stress, when the hurry was created by your own thoughts, not any true pressure. Generally, it isn’t urgent that you check your e-mail or messages right at the point you find yourself waiting on hold.

Instead of flipping through your e-mails while you are on the phone on hold or waiting for a person to come up with the answer you need, focus on being in the present moment instead.  Think to yourself this pause in the workday action is my chance to center myself and breathe.  You could say a mantra like the one relayed to us in  Being Peace, by Thich Nhat Hanh , “Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.” Focusing yourself in this manner is going to make you more productive.  We generally get more accomplished when we are focused, which getting things done was the purpose of our multitasking.  Instead of feeling stressed and scattered from multitasking, being mindful and being in the present lets you tackle your duties in a way that is more relaxed, yet highly engaged.

Recommended Reading:

Mindfully Managing Time Stress

The Year of Living Mindfully: Practice Mindfulness