Sometimes I feel like I am losing it. I have a list of things I need to do in my ever faithful notebook and another list of things to do stored somewhere in my brain. I may even have another list on my ipad or phone. Yes, I have things to do. Even with my lists sometimes I just cannot seem to get started. This is a perfect scenario of multi-tasking burnout.
I went online and did some reading. I focused. I tried not to stray back into my email, Facebook, YouTube or my relentless search for the best pair of workout pants. If you Google multi-tasking you have quite a lot of reading ahead. It all pretty much says the same thing. We cannot "multi-task." We cannot give 100% to more than one thing. (Duh! That's why it is called 100% right?!)
What we are actually doing is "switch tasking." We switch between multiple tasks. We think we are being more productive and more efficient. However, research has shown that we might be reducing our productivity by ~ 40%! In addition, we have a tendency to make more errors. It takes time for our brain to turn off the one task and tune into the next. If we have several tasks we are attempting to do at the same time our brain can become bottle necked. The area in our frontal lobe that is responsible for managing these tasks just gets back up. That is why we get those mental blocks. Too much going on to focus. When this occurs the best thing to do is to turn it off. Turn off the television, close your browser and step away. Go for a walk, meditate for 5 minutes (almost impossible for me by the way) or just lie down for a few. Dr. Gary Small discusses this in his book, "iBrain, Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind."
Dr. Small talks about incorporating regular daily mindfulness (as little as 5 minutes a day.) These exercises will keep our brains healthier and decrease the stressors that our current society has created with the always "on" and always “in touch" mentality. I was not always a "multi-tasker." Technology has fostered this in me. It is not necessarily a bad thing. It is about finding balance within it.
There are plenty of positive things happening to our brains with the advances in digital technology. The younger generation (dubbed digital natives - those born into the computer age) is able to switch tasks much more efficiently than their counter parts the digital immigrants (those that have had to learn computers as adults.) Their reaction to visual stimuli is stronger, ability to filter massive amounts of material is increased, peripheral vision has improved and IQ's are going up in this generation. However, the sacrifice is in human interactions. A Stanford University study found that for every hour we spend at a computer we lose 30 minutes of good ol' traditional one on one face time. This decreased face time leads to decreased interpersonal skills. Such things as one on one communication, empathy for others and reading subtle body language can be challenging for digital natives.
I think it is time for all of us to stop the instant gratification that these advances have allotted us. Just because we can text or email someone 24x7 does not mean we should. We also need to filter why we email/text. What happened to the days of waiting until you saw the person again to ask that question? Or waiting to share a story face to face. I have been working on this over the last week. It is hard. My reflex is to pick up my phone or iPad and make contact. Choosing to connect digitally via face to face, exactly what the Stanford study said happens.
I know I am challenging myself to take a step back. As I utilize this exercise of self-control and mindfulness I expect that my to do list will become smaller and my mind blocks might even disappear. I encourage you to find something once a day and focus on it for 20 minutes without any other distractions. (Make a note how many times you reach for your phone during that time just to “check.") Just try it, it is tougher then you might think.
– Kristine Daly, MSPT, KBC Senior Instructor
Kris lives with her husband and son in Palm Desert, Ca where she is Co-Owner of Quantum Fitness. Quantum Fitness provides private, semi-private and small group instruction in the GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® methodologies, Pilates, Kettlebells, TRX® & The Booty Barre®.
Kris holds her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from Texas A&M University (86’) and her Master of Science in Physical Therapy from Columbia University’s College of Physicians & Surgeons (93’). She enjoys training competitive & recreational athletes as well as those just wanting to increase their quality of life. Kris has served on the scientific advisory board of Kettlebell Concepts since 2004 and has been a Senior Instructor teaching Level 1 trainings since 2005.
Please visit www.quantumfitness.net or you can find them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Quantum-Fitness/173367922706678