The Myth of Multitasking

By Shirley Oya

My clients often tell me that they can’t slow down.

They constantly multitask, and they say it’s hard to concentrate on one thing at a time. I’ve named this common behavior Frenetic Frenzy and think it’s important to pay close attention to it for these reasons:

1. It’s stressful!

Too much stress, as we all know, is not good for our health, especially our hearts. Did you know that the rate of heart attacks in women under the age of 50 has increased dramatically in the past few years? Here’s the real shocker: Annually, heart disease causes one of every three women’s deaths.

2. The inability to focus impacts our creativity and level of productivity

Studies show that multitasking is a total myth! In fact, our brains can only focus on a single thing at a time.

3. It disconnects us from our friends and family

Think about how hard it is to truly listen to someone when your mind is going in a million different directions.

One of my favorite rituals to help transform Frenetic Frenzy into Peaceful Harmony is to spend five extra minutes in bed and take five deep breaths. I call it Five & Five, and this is how it works:

  • Set your alarm clock five minutes early, and instead of leaping out of bed when it goes off, stay there and focus only on your breath.
  • Take five slow, deep breaths, making sure you exhale fully to get rid of the stale air.
  • Mentally scan your body and notice how you’re feeling. Just relax!
  • If you already pray or meditate, this is a great time for it.
  • It also can be helpful to think of three things for which you’re grateful. Numerous studies in the field of positive psychology reveal how much this simple ritual increases our overall sense of well being and happiness.

If you’re still feeling foggy, that’s actually good, because you’ll get the full benefit of your breathing. While your ‘executive planning’ brain (aka prefrontal cortex) may not have fully kicked in yet, the part responsible for your intuition and creativity (the right hemisphere) is very accessible at this time. This early morning ‘fog’ can be a time of great insights and ideas. Most of the content for my recent video came to me during one of my early morning ‘foggy’ rituals.

Remember to:

  • Keep a pen and pad of paper by your bedside, so you’re ready to jot down your thoughts. If you wait until you get out of bed, you risk forgetting one or all of your great ideas!
  • Have NO expectations for a specific outcome. In other words, don’t start the Five & FIve exercise by writing your to-do lists. Simply be open to what comes to you. There’s no way to predict whether an entire project will be ‘”downloaded,” you’ll recall something critical for a proposal, or you’ll suddenly remember that you need to make an important doctor’s appointment.

Even if nothing comes to mind, this short breathing exercise can help you to start your day feeling calm and focused, and well prepared to handle whatever comes your way.

Until next time, breathe deeply, and BE Calm!

To find out more about Shirley Oya and to sign up for her newsletter, “Tools & Insights For Work-Life Harmony”, click here.