If you’re a multi-tasker, if you’re one of those people who believes and has really talked themselves into this idea that when you have three or four or 10 balls in the air, you’re more productive and you’re more effective in living, guess what? You are not just less productive, you may be more at risk for anxiety and depression. Multitasking, in particular, multitasking with media (cell phone, computer, and television at the same time – sound familiar?), is associated with higher rates of depression and social anxiety.
I want to encourage you to practice something called single-tasking. Single-tasking is interesting because it brings up a lot for people. We kind of feel like we’re slacking if we’re only doing one thing, but here’s the physiology of multitasking. It will actually increase your cortisol. When cortisol rises, stress rises. When cortisol rises, your memory centers get whacked; your serotonin levels go down. Your dopamine levels go down, and that leads to increased feelings of sadness.
Multitasking leaves us feeling distracted, less confident. So the more that we try to think that we can actually multitask our way through the day, we actually make our brains go through heck. We sabotage our memory and we feel sadder.
When you’re multitasking and you actually finish one of those things that you’re doing and you move onto the next thing, your brain never gets a chance to actually register the success of finishing one thing. That all by itself makes you feel like you’re not doing well. It makes you feel already like you can’t build your confidence or your self-esteem.
One of the great ways of building self-esteem and confidence is actually being present for the victory of finishing something, one thing. So we all have an opportunity right in front of us, and that is, to practice single-tasking. Here are a couple of ways you can do it. If you’re driving to work or driving to a meeting or you’re driving to someplace, do nothing but drive. Simply drive. Don’t even have the radio on. Put your phone in the back seat and just go 10 and 2 (hands on the steering wheel) and just drive your car. It’s like meditation in action.
When you get home from your day and you’re doing dishes or you’re doing something in the kitchen, do nothing but do the dishes. This gives you a chance to actually get contemplative. When you finish that experience, you actually finish something and feel successful. You feel mindful, which will help you transition into the night with more peace.
Single-tasking is a practice in vulnerability. It’s an art of overcoming self-oppression due to multitasking. Practicing single-tasking will allow you to step into a space of prolific productivity, greater happiness, and peace.