The key concepts which will help you kick the stressful multitasking habit, which is actually inefficient anyway, and become a happy unitasker are calm, clarity and focus. None of these qualities can be attained when your physical and mental activity is frenetic and uncontrolled. However, if you engage with these concepts and let them become the backbone of the way you work and the way you live, you will get a sense of purpose and control which could transform your life.
Try building in some of these suggestions. You could choose one idea and give yourself a set period of time, anything say from half an hour to a week, to see how it goes.
<strong>Focus on one thing at a time</strong>
Pick one thing and do just that for however long you decide. It could be listening to music, or cooking, or having a conversation, or doing a task at work, or reading a book or a magazine.
<strong>Use distractions as rewards</strong>
For your chosen period of time, resist the temptation of texts, tweets, online social interaction or marketplaces (just looking, we know) and immerse yourself in what you are doing. Then have the electronic equivalent of a sugar fix. You could of course have an actual sugar fix if that’s your bag. The point is that you ration your use in a grown-up version of ‘no sweets before tea’. (Do people still say that?)
<strong>Hands and earphones</strong>
Block out noise covering your ears, and block out peripheral distractions by cupping your hands over your eyes and focusing on what is in front of you.
<strong>Mark your place</strong>
If you are unavoidably interrupted or distracted from what you are doing, make a note or notes to remind you where you were when you return to it. This makes it much easier to get back into the flow.
Try something similar for conversations as well, in both work and personal contexts. Before you break off to answer the call or talk to another person or do something else, say something like ‘I’m sorry I have to deal with this, but we’ll get right back to…’ or ‘As soon as it’s finished, I want to hear about…’
<strong>Make ‘phones off’ agreements</strong>
When you want to enjoy other people’s company, you could decide to put your phones away for the occasion. Or at least until the pudding course, or the third round of drinks, or the end of the walk or the discussion. Whole-heartedy engaging, and focusing on talking and listening, will enrich your relationships and increase your enjoyment of being with others. Honestly.