For years, multitasking has been revered as a great way to power through your to-do list and be more productive during the day. But if you’re trying to do everything are you really doing anything? That’s where single-tasking comes in and it might just be the best way to be more present and accomplished.
“Single-tasking brings us repeatedly back to the present moment, the most satisfactory moment,” says David Perrin, Head Teacher at MNDFL in New York City’s Greenwich Village. “It is most satisfactory because we are completely aligned, synchronised in body and mind. That feeling brings clarity and a sense of peace and calm to whatever activity we are engaged in.”
Single-tasking is exactly how it sounds: it’s the process of doing one action at a time. That means eating dinner and focusing on your meal. It means speaking with your friend and never glancing down at your phone. It’s walking down the street and appreciating the nature around you and not being caught up with distractions.
How can it help you stay mindful
“Single-tasking often begins with intention,” adds Perrin. “At MNDFL one of our most popular classes is the Intention Class because we take the time to contemplate what is most meaningful for each of us. In other words, why do we do what we do? Do we get involved in anything in order to feel stressed, frantic, overwhelmed, or anxious? No! The one thing we all have in common is that we want to be happy and successful. Through meditation we begin to experience happiness and success as making peace with our experience.”
And because of that, it means taking the time to savor in each moment, individually.
“Meditation, and our daily activities, have a built-in meaning with intention,” he says. “We feel satisfied and quite good about doing one thing at a time, and doing it well.”
How to fight past the distractions and need to multitask
“Speediness is a form of laziness,” Perrin says. “It’s like a giant conspiracy we’re all participating in that says the busiest people are the most successful and therefore the happiest. In my experience, the laziness of speed is a way of not relating to our feelings. We don’t want to feel what we feel.”
Instead, taking the time to listen to your emotions, and fight past this “busy-ness” need can help you channel your inner self and find what really makes you successful.
Quick ways you can single-task right now
“Pay attention to how you feel (your body and mind/emotions) when you first wake up, even before getting out of bed, or beginning your to-do list in your head,” Perrin tells us. “Contemplate your intention for the day. Ask yourself ‘What is one quality I would like to cultivate within myself today?'”
But it’s so much more than just looking within, Perrin reminds us. It could be as simple as finding a colour when you’re walking around a city, he says, and see how many times you can spot it (like your own version of “I Spy”), or memorising a line of text that’s inspiring to you.
“I think a really fun and joyful way to experiment with single-tasking is to keep your phone in your pocket and in your bag and when you’re walking, and just walk,” says Dina Kaplan, founder of The Path, a meditation community startup based out of New York. Notice what the leaves look like on trees, notice the feeling of the clothing on your arms or legs. Notice all of the sights or smells around you.”
And most of all, ditch the phone every now and again.
“I think why people have gotten so accustomed to multitasking is that we’ve become addicted to that endorphin rush of our phone ringing,” Kaplan says. “There is no question in my mind that you are so much more effective if you focus on one thing at a time.”