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Me & Multi-tasking

April 12, 2012

What is so great about multi-tasking? It’s highly overrated and immensely seductive. The truth is that the human brain is not actually capable of it; what we really do is serially process things – as I learned in this fun, enlightening book.

When I try to do several things at once, I am truly present for none of the tasks at hand. That’s when I lock my keys in the car, arrive at work and can’t remember driving there, or finish a meal and can’t recall savoring a single mouthful. My mind is elsewhere. Literally. I understand and feel the pressure to handle so much and feel so little. And I understand the temptation. Though I know the dangers of it, using my phone while driving is so alluring – while my phone sits innocently in the passenger seat, it seems to call to me, lure me, to pick it up.

This multi-tasking diminishes my ability to focus. Fast is the enemy of deep. Deep thought and empathy are slow neural processes, meaning I will need to focus and slow down if I hope to experience them.

I have several practices that help me stay focused and present — hot yoga, a daily practice of stillness (I briefly retreat 3 times a day – this is a new one), and several silent retreats each year. Like the French philosopher Blaise Pascal famously remarked, all of man’s problems come from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone. If he had known about hot yoga, he might have changed that to “sit quietly in a room and sweat profusely”. And I wonder what he’d say about email…

Stillness is a constant challenge. And while I was terrified on my way to that first silent retreat years ago, they are now a part of my rhythm.

Recently, I was among a number of women CEOs interviewed by a writer for Forbes — a cool woman named Molly — about women executives achieving balance. I talked about stillness. It was a bit of a kick to be in Forbes, I gotta say. Maybe I need to go reflect on that.

One Comment leave one →
  1. RTP permalink
    April 12, 2012 12:52 pm

    You wrote: “When I try to do several things at once… “. Don’t forget about running over your laptop. 🙂 Great post.

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