The growing myth that multitasking and moving ever faster is good

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I keep seeing ads and other references to speed and multitasking as good, desirable. The implication is that we all know that doing two or three things at once is better and if you can do them all faster and faster that’s better too. I keep wondering how this myth has spread so widely and been bought so thoroughly by so many people when studies all over the place show that multitasking makes you less efficient, not more, and the same is true for rushing around doing everything as fast as you can.

More and more I run into people who are constantly racing around and complaining about how much they have to do but I notice that because they don’t take the time to read a whole e-mail or to think through the most efficient way to do the next step they waste vast amounts of time on extra messages or having to do things over or arriving at the goal circuitously because they’ve chosen the most complicated way to get there.

One of the ways I’m grateful for long illness is that lack of energy caused me not only to slow down but to make sure that I plan projects and activities carefully so that I use the least effort for the best results. I’ve learned that a lot of times 10 minutes to half an hour of thinking through the most efficient way to accomplish what needs to be done means I can do it faster and with better results than if I just set off in a whirlwind. I’ve learned that if I read the whole e-mail someone sent me I don’t waste a lot of time asking questions they’ve already answered or getting more e-mails because I failed to answer the key question they asked so we get to the point more quickly.

But in the increasing chaos of speed and multitasking around me I find myself wondering what it would take to slow people down. Another advantage for me of illness was that I wound up choosing this spiritual journey as part of my healing process and meditation and spiritual practices have shown me that often slowing down and clearing my mind helps me see the straightest and most effectual path toward accomplishing a project so that slowing down actually makes me faster.

I also know from my own impatient days that when you’re hyped up and caught in the need for speed it can make you crazy to even think about slowing down or trying to do something like meditation or traditional yoga. I keep trying to think of a way to convince the speed freaks of the world that they can accomplish more and yet be more relaxed and happy by learning how to slow down and quiet their minds. So far I don’t think I’ve figured out a way to express it that convinces anyone to try a different path and I realize how judgmental it is to sit around thinking that all those speedy people need to change.

The only thing I can think of is to keep holding my own space of peacefulness and let that be my contribution to the web. I like to think that one day there will be enough of us meditating and practicing and eating “slow food”, etc. that we will tip the balance of the web of oneness and the world will get out of the mad race to ??? and become tranquil.  Be Peaceful!

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22 thoughts on “The growing myth that multitasking and moving ever faster is good

    • I’m kind of straddling a line because I see an overall rat race that keeps getting speedier but I also see growing communities of people who meditate, etc. so there is a pull in the other direction…

  1. I completely agree, Leigh, I am taking a Cultivating Compassion Course that includes meditation. Many students have stopped coming because they are too busy to meditate. One student said that she meditates while she jogs. I could not believe that everyone was like “that is a great idea.” For me, meditation is the opposite of multitasking, but this group including the instructor encouraged this practice. I guess that is what happens when you live in the Silicon Valley.

    • Usually Kentucky lags behind the West but on this speedy multitasking thing people here seem to be as caught up in it as everyone I know in California… So my experience is the meditate while jogging idea would be popular here too. Yikes!

  2. Pingback: The growing myth that multitasking and moving ever faster is good | Educational Leadership and Technology |

  3. Most people are not working on themselves and not in awareness of the moment. As you already know, being fully present in the moment is awareness. Our as in Zen everything we do can be a meditation. A teacher used to say when you brush your teeth, do not think about anything but brushing your teeth, or washing dishes, be in the moment of washing dishes and so on. You cannot muti task and be in total awareness.

    • Yes–I struggle with wanting to nudge people to see that that awareness makes things so much better and can make life so much more calm but I know I can’t make others do what I think they should… Darn. And I know my own attention to the moment can use a lot of work so I have to come back to working on me…

  4. Thanks for this post Leigh. I have to say that I’m behing on reading and writing blogs because I’m trying to focus on some other projects. 🙂 But I’m glad that I read yours today and reminded myself of why I’m cutting back on trying to do too many activities at once!

  5. It is just part of the programming we’ve all received throughout our lives. You know, the same programming that encouraged us to do well in school, go get a degree, then get a job in a big company (or become a ‘professional’, even more lucrative) and climb the corporate ladder till you could retire at 65 (like it or not), and THEN enjoy the last two years or so of life without having to slave away in the systems set up for us good little bio-robots. Oh, and eat your brussell sprouts!
    The last thing the Big Boys want is for their workers to see the Light (and the truth of why they may have tons of material things, but still feel like crap and can’t relax), slow down their insane consumerist pace, and find their True Essence. Fortunately for us, THAT is already happening, and at lightning ‘speed’. No worries, people! The dysfunctional Old System that had us mesmerized for so long is NOW coming to an end. Forever. And for Good! The Beginning is near. . . .
    My LIFE now is a walking, breathing, creative ‘meditation’. No limits, no rules, no rigid definitions. Let BLISS be Your only Guide. . . . .

    • Lots of programming and yes, that uber productivity thing is the stepped up version of all that “be a good corporate citizen” training. My hope is with the folks like you who are putting themselves outside that mold to meditate and be peace.

      • ALL can do what I chose to do years ago. Time can ALWAYS be made — not found, but made — to begin your own personal transition — one minute, one moment even, at a time. Personal priorities and choices, priorities and choices. . . . . Choose wisely in these chaotic and beautiful times we are entering. Choose well.

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