Doing One Thing at a Time
One thing that bothers most people, is the experience of not remembering why you just walked from one place to another—for example, walking from one room to another in your house, or from one part of your workplace to another. As we get older, we begin to worry if that means something about our brain health.
At those moments, it’s helpful to remember we’ve been having these same experiences since we were young. It’s also helpful to become more conscious of how our minds work. The reason we forget what we intended in those short walks: our mind moves on to other things.
It’s possible to teach yourself to be more mindful; to do a better job of remembering these kinds of things. It’s also possible our multi-tasking lifestyle is also taking a toll.
I recently realized my smartphone is a culprit in my forgetting. In the pre-smartphone era, I only had my wandering mind to contend with. Now, it’s all the possible distractions that come with looking at my phone while I walk across my office.
I actually figured this out while I was sitting at my desk.
Returning to my desk after lunch, I clicked on Outlook to look at my e-mails. While Outlook was loading, I looked at my to-do list, which led me to open Salesforce. I began to do something on the to-do list, which led to me to Outlook. Spotting some unread e-mails, I answered a few, and 20 minutes later I couldn’t remember why I had opened Salesforce.
I often seem to not have the patience to do one thing at a time; I feel the need to move to something else in the incredibly small amount of time it takes for Outlook to open on my desktop.
One of my favorite bloggers, whose blog and books I’ve been reading for many years, is Leo Babauta. Just after I was thinking about these experiences, he published a post called “The Practice of One Thing at a Time”.
He’s a great thinker and a super writer. He had this to say:
How often are we not in the moment? Think about times when we are:
- Jumping between tasks in a browser
- Checking our phones while doing other things throughout the day
- In a rush to do the next thing while still doing the current thing
- Thinking about other things when someone is talking to us
- Irritated by someone when they interrupt whatever we’re doing
- Taking whatever we’re doing for granted, because it’s dull or routine
It turns out, we are very rarely fully in the moment with any single activity. How can we try this enlightened activity of full concentration on one act?
Doing one thing at a time runs counter to how we often feel we need to be. In our fast-paced world, we can feel compelled to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously. In reality, doing one thing at a time, and doing so in a mindful way, is more productive.
What are your experiences? Join the conversation with your comments…