multitasking

Don’t believe the multi-tasking hype: train your brain to focus better

Daniel Goleman, The Big Think: By now, everyone knows that mindfulness meditation is good for you—but what’s still surprising scientists is just how quickly it works. Ten minutes of meditation won’t make you a better mutlitasker—there’s no such thing, as psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman explains—but it will make you more adept at switching tasks and returning to a deep level of concentration more quickly after a distraction.

Every time you practice meditation, you’re strengthening the neural circuitry for focus and training your brain away from mind-wandering. Beyond the need …

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3 tips for practicing mindfulness in a multitasking workplace

wildmind meditation newsPing! Zine Web Tech Magazine: Google, eBay, Intel and General Mills offer classes on it. So do Harvard Business School, Ross School of Business and Claremont Graduate University, among other campuses. Mindfulness is not just a corporate trend, but a proven method for success.

Mindfulness – being focused and fully present in the here and now – is good for individuals and good for a business’s bottom line.

How can people practice it in a workplace where multitasking is the norm, and concerns for future profits can add to workplace stress?

“Even if a company doesn’t make it part of the culture, employees …

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Tech companies find their inner Zen

Sharon Gaudin, Computerworld: A software engineer walks down a hallway at Intel, not thinking about the emails he needs to send or that he has a meeting later in the day about a new project.

Instead, he’s focusing his thoughts on his breathing and how the light feels as it comes through the windows in the hallway. His cellphone isn’t in his pocket. It’s back on his desk.

When he meets with colleagues to work on a critical software problem, he has pushed away any distractions, his mind is clear and still, and he’s focused solely on the problem in front of him …

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What are our screens doing to us?

Watch this video. And ask others to watch it.

Of course in a sense our screens are doing no more to us than presenting us with sensory input, or opportunities for sensory input. And so the question is more “what are we doing with our screens,” or even “what are we losing while we are attending to the input from our screens.”

In my case, one of the significant things I’m losing is the quality and quantity of my sleep. I stay up too late reading. I always (thanks to the Zite and Pocket apps) have plenty of thought-provoking articles queued up, ready to read. As a consequence I end up being chronically sleep-deprived. I’m an addict!

I recently tried an experiment in not using screens after 10 PM, allowing myself time to wind down before bed, and also plugging my iPad mini in to charge in the livingroom, rather than taking it to bed with me and having it be the first and last things I interacted with during the day. That was a great experiment. It really felt like I was facing my addiction, and giving myself better quality sleep, which in itself improved the quality of my concentration. And then I did some travelling and there was no longer a separate room in which I could charge the iPad overnight, and when I came hope I just forgot about my resolution.

I can meditate every day without fail. No problem. I can become vegan and stick to it without cravings for dairy. No problem. But getting to bed at a reasonable hour? That’s a problem.

So I’m going back to my resolution: no screens after ten and no iPad in bed. And now I know that when I travel I have to be careful not to blow it entirely. It’s work in progress, and I’ll let you know how I get on. You are my Technology Addicts Anonymous group, and I’m glad you’re there to bear witness to my struggles.

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Mindfulness means keeping things simple

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Most of us have no end of things to keep up with and sort out. In fact, life sometimes feels bitty, complicated and confusing, and we don’t know how to manage all the demands. Past a certain point we experience stress, feeling that we’ve lost the initiative. Here are some tips on finding an alternative with the help of mindfulness

1.     Come back to present moment experience

Mindfulness means coming back to our experience in this moment, starting with simple, observable sensations. That means letting go, for now, of thoughts about the past and the future that can easily feel confusing. Instead, we ask, what’s happening right now in my body, my thoughts and my feelings? What’s happening around me? Usually, that leaves us feeling clearer and more whole, even if what we experience is uncomfortable.

2.     Find your key

It helps to have a personal key that will help us settle our awareness in the present moment. For many people becoming aware of the body offers a way to do this, noticing the contact of our feet with floor and the support of the chair. For others, the key is becoming aware of the breathing and perhaps taking a slightly deeper breath. It’s good to experiment to find what works for you, and meditation is an excellent opportunity to do that.

3.     Reduce input

We’re getting better and better at increasing the input we receive from the media, social networking, entertainment and the general busyness of our lives. However, psychologists have learned that human attention is a limited resource, so if we want to attend fully to one thing, we may have to let go of others. This goes against the grain of our culture, which sometimes seems to be devoted to distraction!

4.     Leave gaps

Notice the tendency to fill the gaps in the day with some kind of stimulation. Gaps are important. That’s when we can settle down and absorb what’s happening. And it’s interesting to see what we notice in those gaps about our feelings and the world around us. A period of meditation is a kind of a gap in which we give ourselves time and space to simply experience; and the Breathing Space, which we teach on mindfulness courses, is a way of doing this throughout the day.

5.     Pay attention to transitions

Leaving gaps between activities is one way of making a steady transition between the things we do: finishing one thing properly, and then starting the next thing with full awareness. This is important in starting and finishing meditation, and it’s throughout the rest of the day as well. Making conscious transitions helps you feel to stay fresh and have a greater sense of satisfaction.

6.     Manage multi-tasking

Multi-tasking can be stimulating and energizing (for a while) and for many of us juggling social media with other activities has become a part of how we live. But research shows that multi-tasking actually reduces our effectiveness and productivity. So far as we can, it’s probably helpful to reduce the amount of multi-tasking we do. In practice, though, we often have to respond to multiple demands, and mindfulness practice may mean exploring how we can maintain our sense of balance and wholeness while we are multi-tasking.

7.     Remember that things change

The feeling that life is complicated is connected to an underlying truth: everything changes. People, our bodies, situations, our thoughts and our feelings are all changing all the time, whether we want them to or not. Coming back to our present moment experience lets us acknowledge change and let go of our unconscious resistance to it. Conversely, change and impermanence also apply to seemingly intractable difficulties: they, too, will pass.

8.     Let understanding emerge

Sometimes complexity isn’t an illusion: it’s just the way things are. We can’t always simplify the situation we are in, but we can find clarity by coming back to the present moment and what is clear right now. Sometimes, all we know is that things are baffling and difficult; but at least we can know that. Then, a deeper understanding may slowly emerge.

 

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Day 30 of Wildmind’s 100 Day Meditation Challenge

100 day meditation challenge 030Emily Schudel of our Google+ Community shares the following account of her progress to date:

The mind wanders into very interesting corners, but I am learning to patiently let it go and return to the breath. I find the practice creeping into my workday as well. I have an app on my computer that also helps (called Stillness Buddy) – pops up on my screen at intervals for a variety of stillness pauses in the day.

One thing I am really trying to be mindful of at work (and in life) now is getting away from multitasking. So many people seem to think doing many things at once is important, necessary and showing of great skill. I don’t know any more – I am beginning to think not, although I still get trapped in the mindset of doing many things at once. I’m trying to stop, do one task at a time (of course, work doesn’t always allow for that, but I try to do one thing for a set time, then switch to another) and do it with full attention on the task at hand, trusting that the other task(s) will be waiting for me to complete next. People at work laugh when I talk about multitasking being perhaps not the thing we should be working towards, but I am caring less and less. I feel like I accomplish more (and accomplish it better, if you will) but lending my full attention to one task at a time. But, I’m still working on it!

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Access Concentration: Day 21 of Wildmind’s 100 Day Meditation Challenge

100 day meditation challenge 021You know when you’re counting your breaths in the Mindfulness of Breathing, and you manage to keep the numbers going continually and follow the sensations of the breathing, but you also have a continuous stream of thoughts going on? You probably get very annoyed by this. But you shouldn’t.

The continuity of awareness that accompanies the counting is valuable, and it’s part of what we call “access concentration,” which is where you’re on the verge of a “flow state” in meditation where everything becomes much easier and distractions fade away. So this “multitasking” stage (noticing the breathing, counting, thinking) is actually a helpful thing. We just need to take it a step further.

What you’re lacking in that access concentration state, and what you need to bring about, is just a bit more calmness. I’d suggest trying to pay attention to the breathing more fully. Notice what it is that you’re actually paying attention to when you’re “noticing the breathing.” And then notice what sensations connected with the breathing you’re not paying attention to. Start adding them in, to the point where it’s becoming a slight “stretch” to notice so much, but not where you feel actually stressed. That “stretch” will bring your mind to a point of quietness. So you’ll have the continuity you’ve already established, and you’ll have calmness to go along with it.

I just want to say one more thing, which is although I’ve mentioned the potential for “states” arising, we just need to stay with our moment-to-moment experience and engage and work with it, and not grasp after the arising of any kind of state in meditation. Grasping after happiness in meditation is the best way to make sure that you achieve unhappiness.

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Mindfulness in the 21st century

phone etiquette

This is an excellent phone etiquette idea. People often want to spend more time texting the people they’re not with than paying attention to the people they are with, and in doing so they deprive themselves of the opportunity to make rich emotional connections with others.

We need to develop ways, like this one, of dealing with our addictions to technology and to multitasking. Otherwise we risk becoming road-kill on the information superhighway.

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Practice mindfulness: don’t become roadkill on the information superhighway

I just stumbled across a lovely column by author Pico Iyer in the New York Times on “The Joy of Quiet.”

He discusses how overwhelmed we are:

In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often in order to make more time. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug.

I tend to think of us — well, most of us, anyway — as being a bit like early 20th century rubes from the sticks who have just arrived on Times Square, and are dazzled by the displays to the point where we’re a danger to ourselves and others.

I also think this is a transitory phase, and that the tide, in some ways, is beginning to turn. Perhaps that’s not the best metaphor, because while the tide can only go in one direction at any given time, in some respects I think things in the realm of attention and distraction will go in both directions at the same time; you’ll see more people trying to do more multitasking at the same time as you get more people finding ways to withdraw and find an accommodation with the deluge.

Perhaps it’s going to be like the realm of health and fitness, where you see both an explosion of obesity and a rising interest in gyms.

That means that ardent multitaskers may be the informational equivalent of nacho-gorging couch potatoes, while those with a keener sense of the worth of their attention (and the need to preserve it) are more like healthy-eating exercisers. Because multitasking doesn’t really get stuff done, and it has a bad effect on our minds.

I suspect that at some point obesity rates are going to drop, because one way or another they have to. Policies will be put in place or some pill will be found that helps people to keep the pounds off. I don’t think there’s likely to be a pill that helps us develop mindfulness, but there too I think there will be a cultural push to encourage more reflection and down-time. And for the same reason — we’ll have to. I think we’ll have to because people with fragmented minds are incapable of processing information effectively. I’ve seen this in high school students; words just wash over many of them, and if you ask them to restate something they’ve just read they’ll often just tell you something they already know (whether or not it’s relevant to the reading they’ve done) because no learning has taken place. No civilization can survive, no business can thrive, based on minds that are incapable of learning. So that’s why I think things will change.

Here are some signs that I see of the change happening.

Iyer mentions some in his column:

“…those who part with $2,285 a night to stay in a cliff-top room at the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur pay partly for the privilege of not having a TV in their rooms; the future of travel, I’m reliably told, lies in ‘black-hole resorts,’ which charge high prices precisely because you can’t get online in their rooms.”

The wealthy are either the first to realize that they need to protect their attention, or at least have found the most ostentatious way of doing so.

“Writer friends of mine pay good money to get the Freedom software that enables them to disable (for up to eight hours) the very Internet connections that seemed so emancipating not long ago.”

And there are less expensive ways to achieve similar ends. Some people, myself included, use full-screen writing software, some of which is free, like the WordPress software I’m writing on now, which has a full-screen mode. Some people are disciplined enough to turn off their email programs and other alerts in order to avoid interruption.

“Intel (of all companies) experimented in 2007 with conferring four uninterrupted hours of quiet time every Tuesday morning on 300 engineers and managers. (The average office worker today, researchers have found, enjoys no more than three minutes at a time at his or her desk without interruption.) During this period the workers were not allowed to use the phone or send e-mail, but simply had the chance to clear their heads and to hear themselves think. A majority of Intel’s trial group recommended that the policy be extended to others.”

I think businesses are increasingly going to recognize that attention is a resource that needs renewal. Those that don’t will fail.

A recent article, Multitasking loses its cool; Mindfulness is now in, points out that “Mindfulness training can help people focus, see clearly, work with change, form deeper relationships and more.”

Another points out that mindfulness makes you a better leader:

The practice of mindful leadership gives you tools to measure and manage your life as you’re living it. It teaches you to pay attention to the present moment, recognizing your feelings and emotions and keeping them under control, especially when faced with highly stressful situations. When you are mindful, you’re aware of your presence and the ways you impact other people. You’re able to both observe and participate in each moment, while recognizing the implications of your actions for the longer term. And that prevents you from slipping into a life that pulls you away from your values.

Google is teaching mindfulness to its employees. So is General Mills. And Plantronics.

And talking of Google, the forthcoming Google Glass project — sci-fi style head-up display glasses — are designed not to get in between you and your experience of the world. It’s hard, initially, to see how they are pulling this off, but that’s what have said it manages to achieve.

Technology can help us avoid overload, but fundamentally it’s we ourselves that will determine whether technology is our tool or whether we are a tool of technology. As Iyer puts it,

All the data in the world cannot teach us how to sift through data; images don’t show us how to process images. The only way to do justice to our onscreen lives is by summoning exactly the emotional and moral clarity that can’t be found on any screen.

And so he sees more of his friends turning to yoga, or meditation, or tai chi. I suspect that those who don’t are going to end up as roadkill on the information superhighway — too dazzled by the bright lights of the rectangular screens into which they stare all day to be able to achieve much, and hence unable to survive.

Todd Henry argues that we’re losing the capacity to be bored, and therefore the capacity to be creative.

So I’d say “Meditate: your future may depend on it.”

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Multitasking loses its cool; Mindfulness is now in

Victor Reklaitis, Investor’s Business Daily: As you read this article, you might at the same time pretend to listen to a co-worker’s latest gripe or skim through your emails.

No problem, right? After all, the ability to multitask is critical if you want to succeed in the 21st century.

Well, the pendulum actually has swung in the other direction, at least if you talk to a new breed of leadership training providers.

For them, mindfulness — not multitasking — is the key to success. But what exactly is mindfulness?

“The simplest definition is it’s a way of being in the moment, seeing things …

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