One of my favorite TED talks is by media tycoon Arianna Huffington. She was speaking on the importance of adequate sleep and the repercussions of sleep deprivation.
We can all push ourselves too far when we allow our “to do” lists to override our internal guidance system’s gentle nudge to take a break, or take a nap, or (heaven forbid) take a day off. When we don’t honor our instincts for self care we can really cause some serious damage to our health, and that is what happened to Arianna.
A self proclaimed “type A personality” Arianna Huffington pushed, and pushed, and pushed herself on a forward professional trajectory that by all Western definitions of the word looked like success with a capital S! It was her body, however, that had the last word when she finally gave out of energy and collapsed in her office one day, only to wake up in a puddle of her own blood; a result of fainting and hitting her head on the side of her desk.
In her TED Talk she laid out the steps that she took to correct her proclivity for over-working and taxing herself too much. One thing she did was install sleep pods in the offices at The Huffington Post, which the employees nap in everyday. Since I’m thinking that not many of your employers are going to indulge your need to rejuvenate to that extreme, we won’t spend much time on that. I will focus, however, on something that I think we can ALL do that will help us to tune into our present and be much more aware of what we need in every given moment to moment circumstance: get rid of multitasking!
This may go against everything you believe to be true about success, achieving your goals, being productive, and maintaining your status as a ‘real go getter’. In fact, if you are a type A personality yourself you are probably rolling your eyes back in your head at the idea of eliminating multitasking from your mode of operation and you most likely think I’m crazy and idealistic for suggesting such a preposterous notion; and that’s okay! But I can tell you, from personal experience, that if you eliminate multitasking from your equation you will eventually be much more present to each moment, feel connected to your body’s intuitive needs, have a much more embodied sense of fulfillment in everything you do, and believe it or not, get more accomplished and with better results.
So how can we begin to take small steps toward less multitasking?
Make a conscious effort to be one hundred percent committed to what ever task you are undertaking while it’s in front of you. If it’s checking your emails, ONLY check your emails; be completely present in each individual email that you write one at a time without thinking about the next email or the next task that is on your agenda.
When the time comes to do the dishes, be completely committed to showing up for the sink full of dishes without letting your mind wander to the unchecked emails.
When it’s time to go over your children’s homework, be present to them, to their assignments, to their needs and wants without abandoning the task at hand halfway through to return the text of a co-worker.
If you can start to be completely engaged in each task before you and show up whole heartedly moment by moment, then you will begin to feel a sense of fulfillment and true accomplishment at the completion of each “to do”. You will also feel less overwhelmed when approaching your days with a ‘one thing at a time’ mentality, and be more attuned to how your body is responding to each and every endeavor. This will allow you to more accurately gauge your internal GPS when it tells you to back off, take a break, and get to sleep a little earlier. Ultimately, we all know that when we are well rested and more alert our efforts are more productive and our work is far more excellent than when we give less attention to the details by scattering our energy between five different tasks and the same time.
My biggest takeaway from the TED Talk presentation was a quote from Ms Huffington’s mother, which I’ve adopted as my own, and I leave it with you now: “I abhor multitasking!”
TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TEDbegan in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.