You have many tasks and responsibilities on your plate. And you are overwhelmed.
Instead of running toward lifehacks and productivity apps, directly face and diffuse the anxiety and distraction (the opposite of mindfulness) that multitasking challenges you with.
This is how to multitask mindfully:
- Consider why you are multitasking. Must you multitask, or are you reactively multitasking due to anxiety and/or outside pressure? Make a conscious decision to multitask. Multitask with intention and purpose.
- Set clear goals for what you must accomplish by multitasking. What is your ultimate mission for each task? When will you know that a task has been completed? Prioritize which tasks must get done first, and which ones can be done later.
- Recognize that effective multitasking is not doing two things at once. It is focusing on one task at a time. Set your focus on the first task. When outside demands require you to focus on the second task, leave the first task in a place where you can return to it and resume activity. Then shift your focus completely to the second task.
Understanding the nature of focus, and building up your ability to focus, is the key to successful multitasking. Focus of time is closely related to focus of energy. You have to be interested in what you are doing in order to focus on it. One advantage of mindful multitasking is that it allows you to set a short time aside for tasks that you do not enjoy, knowing that you will soon be switching tasks to one that you prefer. If you can focus well on the tasks that you enjoy doing, your focused energy will spill over into the tasks that you do not like doing.
Once you start to multitask without anxiety or reactivity — with intention — practice it. Practice actively rewires your brain’s pathways. Don’t allow setbacks to bring you down. Learn from mistakes, and be compassionate with yourself as you learn to mindfully multitask. It’s a simple practice, but it requires skill. Like any skill — from ice skating to sewing — practice does not make perfect, but it does build muscle memory, consistency, and accuracy.