Notes On Unitasking
Unitasking, an idea whose time has come.
Seems straight forward, and it is, but it can be challenging to put into play in as a culture of chronic multitaskers. The idea behind unitasking is to simply, focus your attention on being with, or doing, one thing at a time. We are essentially giving more of ourselves to one subject, person, or experience.
It makes for situations that are freer from a lot of stimulus, which creates a stronger sense of presence; deepening our connection, with the one thing that we are giving our attention to. Unitasking is a simple way to make any moment mindful practice, wherever you are, whatever you're doing, no need to be in the yoga studio or on your meditation cushion.
Why do we need to use it in our lives?
Unitasking is a mindfulness tool that is helpful in creating so much for us in our lives. It heightens our ability to focus and to be free from distraction, which helps us to be more efficient in doing the one thing we have chosen to do. Over time we build and strengthen these muscles in the mind, making focusing our attention easier.
Unitasking helps improve memory function, and not only will we remember what we have done more clearly, unitasking improves comprehension, so, we will take it in and understand it to a greater degree as well!
It helps us to slow down and to embrace the notion of trust, with regard to time. In other words, trusting that there is enough time in our lives to be and do all that we want to.
It puts into play a mentality of ‘time being plentiful’ rather then ‘time being scarce’. This is a welcomed new practice and an attitude adjustment with huge psychological benefits.
It is a lovely alternative to feeling maxed out and as if there is never enough time, which is unfortunately reinforced in a culture where we often inflate the importance of being busy.
The idea of unitasking is definitely a change in attitude, but it is tangible because it is actually a physical change to our way of doing, along with the attitude shift. It is a change that gives us permission to live with a more graceful energy inside of us, rather then a frazzled, hurried energy inside of us. Anyone who feels ‘rushed and busy’ all the time, can benefit greatly by embracing unitasking.
How have you’ve seen it work for your clients?
I coach a lot of creatives and I’ve seen that slowing down, unitasking and trusting their process has made for a deeper connection to their creative flow, and has truly freed up their creative energy.
I’ve seen both parents & partners build stronger more intimate connections when they unitask in their relationships, by intentionally giving their loved ones their undivided focused attention.
In general clients report that when they have given the people in their lives, both personal and professional, their undivided focused attention, it creates an atmosphere where that person feels seen and heard at a more sincere or whole hearted level. They also share that is seems to be contagious and that they then tend to be the recipient of focused attention in return.
What are the steps we need to take to uni-task?
Removing layers: Simply remove layers when possible to simplify the stimulus and allow yourself to be more present with the chosen layer.
Examples of this are, choosing silence in the car perhaps rather then the radio, especially when also having a conversation with others in the car. Or, When you are walking your dog in the park, choosing to just be present in the moment at the park, taking in nature, rather then staring at our smart phones or catching up with someone in conversation on the phone.
Then, paying attention to and being open and curious about, what you are in the middle of experiencing, rather then thinking “how quickly can I get this done and get on to the next thing”. Or asking yourself “What else could I be doing right now as well?”
Unifying our efforts: Often in multitasking we compartmentalize ourselves, while our bodies are busy doing one thing, we decide that our minds could be focused on something else, so we pull our active attention away from the thing our bodies are doing and get busy elsewhere with our minds. In this moment, we have divided our efforts, our focus, and ourselves, energetically.
Ask any insomniac about how much work they got done last night while also trying to go to sleep. This is the perfect example; our bodies are trying to go to sleep and our minds are thinking “Well, I’m not asleep yet, so maybe I’ll just start planning out my day tomorrow.” In this case all efforts are not focused on getting to sleep, they are divided. This sleepless person is multitasking even as they lay in bed! It is also a case where this over industrious person will miss having a good night sleep, so in the end, it does not matter how much extra planning they have for their day, they will be too tired to implement it well.
We often do this with conversations. We are busy in our bodies doing one thing and think, “Well hey, I can also make that phone call to my friend while I…” and then suddenly, our energy is divided and we are not fully present with either activity.
Incubation: The idea of incubation is, intentional taking time to not do something. In this case, we are intentionally adding the element of time in order to let things ‘cook’ or ‘incubate’ on their own… It is acknowledging, that adding even inactive time to a process, also contributes to the final outcome.
For an artist or creative, this can mean walking away from a project in order to give it time to evolve within us, in the back ground, on it’s own. This tool again embodies the essences of trust. And It requires us to embody trust, that all will happen in due time and that there is plenty of time to take a break now and come back to something with fresh energy.
So, more of a ‘let it happen’ then a ‘get it done’ mentality, which gives us permission for down time or time to rest. It introduces this idea that what we choose not to do, is just as important as what we choose to do.
Incubation is a helpful tool to pair with unitasking, as it helps us to understand that actually setting aside a project is a good thing.
Anything else we need to know?
We have become a culture that praises multitasking and multitaskers above all else.We are learning that multitasking is impacting our ability to focus, and that multitasking not only makes us less present but often less impactful in the moment.
Unitasking is an invitation to take a deep breath, slow down and be truly present with the task at hand! It models to our bodies, and our beings, that time is on our side. It helps us to step out of a rushed, frantic mode of existence and in to a more calm, graceful existence.
Do yourself a favor, work the idea of unitasking into your vocabulary as one of your available choices. It teaches us that going slow with quality focus is not only valuable, but beautiful.