The word “multitasking” has been used to describe doing two or more things at the same time. Juggling lots of balls, so to speak, with none of them falling.
Of course, the exhortation to do this is dangerous. Why? Just think of the juggling example. The juggler keeps all the balls in the air by focusing on one task only. He is not multitasking at all. He is single-tasking so that completing the task has multiple effects.
And we know that the brain has limits on how much input it can take in per unit of time. So the more focus points you try to track in different tasks, the less well you will be able to track them. This famous simulation demonstrates that idea.
In fact, we do not want to be nearing our capacity limits. That reduces the impact of our giving our precious attention. We want to do the opposite, and get more out of the focus that we can access.
But how? There is a rather simple thought experiment that can help you on this path. Think of something that gives you great pleasure or pain. Notice that that thing induces attention on a single thing to the exclusion of other things. When you think of your true love, you probably are not also thinking of taking out the garbage. or doing your taxes. The absorption has an exclusive effect.
That is how we get stuck on a single task. We allow it to dominate our attention. Like when we are learning to dive into a pool, we could not help but focus on the idea of losing control of our balance. To avoid that we can embrace a principle.
No single thing has more value than the next thing after it. The connections between things should be our focus point.
So while I am typing out this post, I am thinking that I will finish washing the dishes next. While am finishing the dishes? I will decide then what my next task shall be. Try to keep the tasks as short as possible. If a task is too big, I will break it into pieces that are more manageable.
As you do this, you will find that you have more “initiation energy“. You also may be able to generate more “flow” (an absorption in doing stuff, as one experiences in games). As you feel these higher energy levels, you will get a spill over effect – more positive emotions, more peace of mind, and more clarity about your spiritual dimension.
But — beware of overdoing it! One you are activated, the temptation is to stay activated That is great for pick up basketball games But doing a full active day, you need to pace yourself. That means knowing when to stop and rest and knowing how to rest. If you ant more on that, check out Jim Loehr who makes a living coaching CEO’s, sports stars, and others on how to manage energy. According to Loehr, humans are nothing more than fully integrated, multi-dimensional energy systems. Energy is the construct that unites all approaches to performance.
Avoid the other trap — trying to map out a list of too many things to do. The list will overwhelm you, and soon you will discard it. Just two are enough to get multitasking right.
Remember: Not two at the same time, but two in a row.
And if you get interrupted? For example, while I am going to the kitchen, perhaps I notice that I forgot to put the wash in the dryer? I can choose to take a detour, with the dishes coming up after, or the other way around. That is up to me. But I will get trapped in neither and keep moving forward through the day.
BTW, the same goes for thinking (a type of doing). No single idea is worth your focus for long. The value of that idea has to be tested by asking what it leads to next. What connections does it offer? The more you look for connections, the more connections you will see.
This is a skill, not a talent. You get better at it the more your practice.