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Living in the Moment

March 2, 2010

Since there is never enough time in a day to get everything done, I usually find myself multi-tasking.  If I need to be on a phone call, I walk around watering the plants at the same time.  While Maya plays in the bathtub for 40 minutes every night, I hang up my clothes and organize my closet (my closet can never be too organized).  When I embark on the daily “hair versus the blow dryer” match, I read a book.  I always considered myself pretty accomplished at multi-tasking, but I recently came to the startling conclusion that I can do more than two things at once! 

For example, I can watch TV, work on my computer, and have Maya “do my hair” at the same time.  (Maya pulling on my hair can get painful at times, but it’s nothing compared to the pain of giving The Bachelor my full attention).  This realization was such a revelation for me that I am now kicking myself for losing countless minutes of my life because I didn’t multi-task to my fullest ability.

Last week I decided to triple-task – I walked to pick up some groceries while reading at the same time.  As a member of Real Women Talking, I give my opinions on magazines, ads, and more for the various Meredith Corporation’s magazines (Fitness, Family Circle, Parents, etc.), and so I  brought the latest issue of Ladies’ Home Journal to read through.  As I struggled to juggle my grocery bags, my frenetic pace, and the magazine, I ironically stumbled upon an article entitled, “Life is Good…Don’t Miss It.”

The author, Catherine Newman, talks about how so many of us rush from one task to the next so we can cross things off our To-Do list, but as the days go by we are never really mindful of the present moment which is when our life is actually happening.  I can so relate to this!  When I’m in the middle of eating dinner I’m already calculating how long it will take me to clean up the kitchen.  When I’m playing Candy Land with Maya I am often thinking multiple thoughts, including (but not limited to):

1. How much longer do I have to play this interminable game? 
2. What am I going to make Maya for lunch tomorrow?
3. And the next day?
4. I really need to go to the gym.
5. If Maya bangs the game board one more time I am going to lose it.

According to the article, “Recent studies show that for some, mindfulness can be as effective as medication in dealing with depression and anxiety.”  Somehow I don’t think that focusing on Candy Land is going to be effective in dealing with anxiety since zoning out is the only thing that gets me through the game.

The article goes on to mention ways to improve ones mindfulness: be in the present, engage fully, slow down, take a deep breath, etc., etc., etc.  I’ve heard it all before, so much of what the article mentions is nothing new to me.  I know I should be fully present when I play board games with Maya but I don’t even think Mother Teresa would have had the patience for that. 

One thing that did strike a chord,however, was the point on getting more done by doing less.  “Multitasking doesn’t make anything go faster, but it can make things more confusing. Science suggests that your brain is actually alternating between two things rather than paying attention to either.”  Hmmm.  Could that be the reason why I sometimes put the egg carton in the freezer instead of the fridge?  Or send a text to my brother instead of Ali?

I know that I do too many things at once and I know it stresses me out.  But so does not going to the gym, or not knowing whats going on in the news, or not having anything planned for dinner.  So is it really a crime to watch the news and contemplate dinner while I’m on the treadmill?  According to this article yes.  But until somebody can find me 5 extra hours in the day and someone with the patience of a saint to step in to play a game with Maya, my triple-tasking will continue. 

What are your thoughts on multi-tasking? 

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42 Comments leave one →
  1. March 2, 2010 6:53 pm

    Ha! I always ask God, why the heck do you give us just 24 hours in the day? Why do we have to sleep 7-8 hours a day? And I totally see your dilemma about multi-tasking.
    I think it’s all about priorities. Some things just need your total concentration, like relationships. Those things just CANNOT be shared. But menu-planning while working out at the gym? Totally necessary, and makes the workout go faster, too!

  2. March 2, 2010 7:40 pm

    i almost always multitask, even if the other task is ‘catching up on the news.’ baking/crockpotting is also considered multitasking in my mind. ha. i’m not good at mindfulness, but occasionally i’m glad to be without cell phone reception in the subway, just so i can sit and do nothing.

  3. March 2, 2010 8:15 pm

    i multitask CONSTANTLY! i think the only time i’m not multitasking is…well i can’t think of one. i hate that i can’t do just one thing at a time. i’m happy with the results of my ways and the quality of work i produce but sometimes i wish i could just kick back and enjoy an episode of a good tv show without doing 500000 other things

  4. March 2, 2010 8:26 pm

    mindfulness is so darn trendy these days! but for good reason…i took DBT classes which heavily emphasize mindfulness and there is somethign to be said for the effect of practicing it in your life!

  5. March 2, 2010 8:48 pm

    As a mom, wife, blogger, yoga teacher, etc multi tasking is essential. I dont multi task as much as i just powertask..meaning i bust a hump and do in 1 day what takes most people a week. That’s not tooting my own horn b/c sometimes i make myself insane…i have a hard time putting it in a lower gear b/c i feel unprodcutive. Balance. I need to always be mindful of keeping things in check 🙂

  6. March 2, 2010 8:58 pm

    Wow, I’m the same exact way. I like to have the tv on, read, and fold laundry at the same time. And I like to cook multiple meals at one time. I am constantly thinking of ways to be more productive and “efficient.” Though I doubt it’s ever that efficient if I feel frazzled and crazy!
    I really would like to be more present and mindful. I’ve read many books on the subject and honestly it is something that I think would benefit me and give me more peace. Always working on it! Great topic

  7. March 2, 2010 9:05 pm

    Boy oh boy sister…life has been knocking me in the HEAD lately over this one. Been forcing me to slow down and I have been fighting it every step of the day…but each time I DO…I find I am more relaxed, less frazzled and less meltdowns over broken iPods and more CHILL.

    AND I am not getting less done.

    so YAY for mindfulness.

    it’s hard though.
    and I was a professional multi-tasker.
    xoxoxxo

  8. Danielle permalink
    March 2, 2010 9:22 pm

    I like to multi-task when it comes to things such as eating, talking on the phone, or cleaning. But if I’m doing homework or blogging it gets to be too much! My brain can only juggle so many things at once

  9. March 2, 2010 9:47 pm

    I am a great multitasker! I find I work better when I have a bunch of things on my plate, however I have been working with my life coach to slow down and take time to breathe! It it hard doing what I am doing, I couldn’t imagine a 4 year old in the mix too! You got your hands full 🙂

    XXOO

  10. Kyle permalink
    March 2, 2010 10:42 pm

    I think I would be a terribly unhappy person if I didn’t multitask. It drives me nuts when I’m forced to do just one thing at time (which hardly happens because i’m already planning on what my next move will be). Yoga has definitely helped in this arena a tiny bit – the mantras most instructors reiterate emphasize focusing your energy on the present, etc…I’m not very good at that…maybe I should go to yoga more than once a week 🙂 Thanks for another great post Ameena!

  11. actorsdiet permalink
    March 2, 2010 10:55 pm

    i have issues with multitasking. as i type i’m watching tv and spending time with my husband and drinking water.

  12. March 2, 2010 11:06 pm

    Oh I definitely know what you’re talking about. I think moms are most guilty for multitasking. My theory is it’s probably because we feel we have not only have to get things done for ourselves but for at least 2 other people, our kid(s) and the hubby. So in theory we’re trying to work double overtime. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with multitasking. You multitask all you want.

  13. Silvia permalink
    March 3, 2010 4:11 am

    Nothing wrong with multitasking as long as it includes zipping a cocktail, reading a book while soaking in the hot tub!

    • March 3, 2010 7:51 am

      Silvia – Amen to that!! I think even the article’s author would have to put her stamp of approval on multitasking in this case!

  14. March 3, 2010 4:34 am

    I’m constantly trying to get a million things done at once and stressing myself out like a crazy person!! I definitely need to slow down sometimes and LIVE IN THE MOMENT!! 🙂

  15. March 3, 2010 4:36 am

    I am such a multi-tasker– and I’m not even that busy!!! I just like to do more than one thing at once 🙂

    I totaly read while I blow dry my hair, too!

  16. March 3, 2010 4:59 am

    I multi-task like crazy! If I can do more than one thing at once, I’m not going to waste that time. Such is the way of life and I work my best with tons of things to do.

  17. March 3, 2010 5:18 am

    I think multi tasking is a necessity, but I do agree that we need to be sure to be “in the present” as much as possible too. Like when playing with our wee ones and talking to our husbands. But while on the treadmill – yea, I’ll be planning out dinner and tallying our budget at the same time. 😉

  18. Susan permalink
    March 3, 2010 5:51 am

    Amen to Sophia’s comment above – 24 hours is not enough! I am HORRIBLE at multi-tasking so I need more time! Maybe when you become a mother you get better at it? One of those magical mom qualities? Thoughts, Ameena?

    • March 3, 2010 10:32 am

      I’ve always been a multi-tasker but I think having a child really forces you to become an expert multi-tasker! There is no other way to get things done unless you do more than one thing at a time. I wish I could say that it is a magical mom quality but honestly I think everyone has it in them! I’m sure you do too. 🙂

  19. March 3, 2010 6:19 am

    I struggle with the same debate… I so want to be fully present in every single moment, but I still always feel the need to multi-task anyway, even while driving…:-p Eeek! 🙂

  20. March 3, 2010 6:50 am

    I really think that us moms do the best we can. I love that I am not the only mom who’s children take a 40 minute bath and I use that time to tidy up the rooms around the bathroom. You and I have so many similar thought patterns it is scary. Thanks for this post 🙂

  21. March 3, 2010 7:38 am

    I’ve been multi-tasking for as long as I can remember… even when on “vacation”, I feel like there are things I should be doing that prevent me from relaxing!

  22. March 3, 2010 8:04 am

    Contrary to some popular current research, I find that multi-tasking– to a moderate amount– helps me because it makes me super focused. It sounds very counter intuitive, but it’s not because it economizes my time so much so that I have to use every second diligently.

    The only time I don’t multi-task is when I’m studying, because I don’t remember the material well when I do.

  23. March 3, 2010 8:25 am

    Interesting post! I just read your blog while listening to an online exam prep class in my left ear and being on hold in my right ear. Does that make any sense? lol

    I always resolve to be more mindful, but b/c I don’t come up w/ specific goals, I don’t change any of my behaviors. I think that multi-tasking is appropriate some of the time, but has the ability to take away from relationships & experiences if not managed correctly…

  24. March 3, 2010 9:18 am

    i swear i have developed ADD as a result of too much multi-tasking. I can’t focus on one thing at a time anymore.

  25. March 3, 2010 9:37 am

    Not surprisingly (because we have so much in common), I’m a big multi-tasker too. This does get confusing at times. When I’m making dinner, I’m also making lunches for my husband and me for the next day. Sometimes ingredients get crossed. Oh, and I’ve totally put a bag of frozen vegetables in the pantry before. I’m always thinking ahead, trying to organize activities in the most efficient way possible in my head, i.e. “I want to be in bed by 9:30, and the running time on this movie is 2 hours, so we should start watching it by 7:30. I guess I should make the salmon tonight since that’ll be ready pretty fast. But I had tuna for lunch. Hm. Chili?” That all goes on in my head while my husband is sitting there using the laser pointer to entertain the cats. I want to be a simpler creature.

  26. March 3, 2010 9:47 am

    I multi-task all of the time. There’s only so many hours in a day, right? But sometimes I do find that I enjoy the activity that I’m doing less when I’m thinking about something else. But I can’t stop myself. I tend to zone out while I do things I don’t really like, like sit in class. Who needs to pay attention? Not me…

  27. March 3, 2010 9:49 am

    Oh girl this is a good one! Ever since I got the iphone I am constantly using it to do something other than be fully present in the moment. It bothers me………
    I think some multitasking can be good but when it removes you from some of the small joys-like looking around and seeing life as we know it-it can be bad……
    Have a great day!

  28. March 3, 2010 11:39 am

    Is there a fine line between multitasking and over-tasking? Because if there is, I jumped so far over it that I can’t even see it anymore. I’m always trying to do way too much at once; it’s gotten to the point where my mind feels like it’s two steps ahead of me at all times, and I’m constantly trying to catch up. Sometimes I don’t mind, but other times it causes me a lot of extra stress. I’ve been trying to slow it down and be more mindful, and although it was frustrating as hell at first, I do kind of enjoy being more “present”.

  29. March 3, 2010 1:37 pm

    Who can make it with only 24 hours a day if they don’t multitask? Do they skip sleep? Honestly, today’s workplace thrives on multitasking. And that means home life must, too. I’m always making dinner plus cleaning up plus this plus that. It’s the only way things get done. There are a couple instances where I don’t: I can’t multitask at the gym—it slows me down and I’d rather have a killer workout. And I won’t multitask during Lost or 24.

  30. March 3, 2010 2:56 pm

    I’m a horrible multitasker so I usually just stick to my one thing, if I’m lucky than I can manage two things at once. Failing at it doesn’t bother me though, I just try and go with the flow. Maybe one day I’ll learn how to multitask better.

  31. March 3, 2010 3:02 pm

    There has been a recent (the past few years) backlash against the culture of multi-tasking that is so rampant in the email, iPhone, do-everything media-driven culture. I realized that I’m not reading books as much as I used to, so I now shut the computer down by 9:00 pm, unless I really *am* working on something.
    As a teacher, I’m very concerned about the kids that I teach who really struggle with the constant barrage of information.
    I don’t think it’s a ‘crime’ to multi-task, but I believe that being able to stop for a moment and smell the proverbial roses can do us all a bit of good.

    • March 3, 2010 7:43 pm

      My reading time has totally suffered! That is why I have to find time to get it in..i.e. during a walk. Terrible but I can’t sacrifice my books/magazines!

  32. March 3, 2010 3:42 pm

    I go through the same thing…I’m a total multi-tasker but I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out on so many happy little moments. This is definitely an area that I’m working on. 🙂

  33. March 3, 2010 4:20 pm

    Ameena, this is so true. I fail to live in the moment…constant worry over what I could, would, or should do…life just goes by…its pathetic and really silly, But it is so so so hard to break!

  34. whydeprive permalink
    March 3, 2010 4:25 pm

    Im always multitasking. I just need more hours ya know? I mean, I dont even have a kid, and still I get home from work, workout, make dinner, eat dinner, clean up after dinner, make lunch and breakfast for the next morning, shower (hopefully) walk the dog and then its bedtime. I totally feel like Im missing out on life sometimes. But its not like I can just stop eating to save some time.

    I put things in the wrong places all the time. You’re right, its probably because of multitasking. I’ll find ice cubes in the fridge, frozen berries in the cupboard. Thats a fun thing to clean up!

  35. March 3, 2010 6:08 pm

    Loved the post, Ameena 🙂
    I think there´s nothing wrong with multi-tasking.
    If that´s what works for you… Then fine!
    😀
    Oh, and by the way… I just nominated you for a blog award!
    Check it out! I hope you have fun 😉
    Have a great Thursday.
    Brazilian XOXO´s,
    Gabriela

  36. March 3, 2010 10:51 pm

    I feel like, in this day and age, we’re practically programmed to multitask. Even just walking down the street often requires us to focus on twenty different things at once (is a kid going to run out in front of me? gotta make sure i dont trip or drop my purse and oh where are my keys…), not to mention the twenty other things that attract our attention (how skinny the model looks on that billboard, the weird shirt that dude is wearing, that chick’s awesome shoes, is my cell phone ringing?). These “studies show” monotasking is more productive, well, of course focusing on only ONE THING at a time is more productive, but how often are we even allowed to focus on one thing at a time? That’s why, I think, so many of us multitask as a way of life – we do it almost all the time, whether or not we realize it.

    I would LOVE to be able to focus on one task at a time. I would love to really focus! I just don’t know if I know how, most of the time! My mind feels too quiet somehow…Haha.

    Really great post Ameena!

  37. March 4, 2010 2:27 pm

    Oh gosh. I multi-task but agree with the article that it is bad. I get things done, but more sloppily. Like you though, I wonder “WHEN WILL THIS BE OVER?” I think I am rushing to that moment when I get to relax, but it NEVER comes. And I wouldn’t know what to do if it did!

  38. March 10, 2010 3:23 am

    Hi Ameena,
    I have been reading your blog for a month or so, on and off. I really love your writing! And, as I am an Indian, I relate to many of the things you talk about.

    This is a great post! I always find myself coming back everyday to see what you have written, and will keep coming.

    Keep up the great work! 🙂

  39. March 12, 2010 9:47 am

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