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Getting to Now: How to Become Present in a Multitasking World

I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of trying to do it all.

My to-do list is no longer simply a list but a series of hundreds – yes, hundreds – of tasks that I have entered into Evernote that I will never, ever get to. My calendar is metaphorically busting at the seams with commitments that I was a crazy-person to take on in the first place. At the end of the week, my desk resembles a Hoarding: Buried Alive episode.

The struggle is real, people, and the cost we are paying is huge. So, imagine my joy when I saw the most recent Time magazine special edition at the grocery store checkout line. It turns out that what I have been studying and teaching for over two decades, mindfulness, is finally starting to hit the mainstream.

While I haven’t yet digested every single article (but there is a pool day in my near future before Autumn shows up in all of her beautiful bronze glory), I already love everything I have read so far. One of the first articles talks about the power of being present, which is a core principle in my presentations. Here are a few nuggets that jumped out at me:

  • A study by the University of California, Irvine showed that we tend to switch from one activity to another EVERY THREE MINUTES during an average workday, and it takes us significantly longer to get us back to what we were originally doing.

  • According to a study done by USC, Americans average more than 13 HOURS OF MEDIA every day. (That’s just crazy.)

  • People who take morning breaks versus afternoon breaks are less emotionally exhausted and more satisfied with their jobs.

This is where mindfulness comes in. When we can let go of the need to be superheroes conquering every last task faster than a speeding Zantac, we can truly focus on one task at a time. Let’s try to actually BE in the meeting that we are in, as opposed to sitting in the meeting, thinking about what we’ll make for dinner tonight, texting our colleague to schedule next week’s happy hour, and answering a client’s email all at the same time.

We can also take small steps to unplug from The Matrix every once in a while. How about going to the bathroom one time every day without your phone? Or having a meal without it? Or taking an Uber to the airport without checking yet again for new messages or surfing social media? There’s a beautiful world out there for us to appreciate; we just need to look up every once in a while.

It’s ok to step away from your desk regularly. In fact, it’s smart and healthy. If you want to be a peak performer, you’ll schedule non-desk, non-work time into every day. Go outside. Help someone. Take a walk around the building with no other intent other than to experience and appreciate your workplace. Be in this wonderful world instead of losing yourself in the bits and bytes of your devices.

Mindfulness doesn’t need to be hard, but it does need to be consistent if you want to see the results. Every day affords us an opportunity to practice. Every time we sit in silence for a few minutes allows us to train our brains to focus on one thought at a time. (Don’t make the excuse that you are too busy to meditate or your brain won’t let you; that’s exactly why you need to.) Every exchange with another gives us a chance to truly connect with them instead of having them simply in our orbit while we stay connected to our machines. A little change here and there will make all the difference in our levels of true satisfaction and success.

OK, it’s time for me to go. My phone is beeping.


Theresa Rose is a business motivational speaker, award-winning author, and expert on mindfulness and resilience who works with organizations to create more innovative, adaptive cultures and happier, more productive workforces. Connect with Theresa

#mindfulness #meditation #leadership

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