Single-tasking and mindfulness

Have you noticed how stressful multi-tasking can get? We think we’re being productive, but really we’re not. In the long term we’re not. We get stressed, tired, maybe even exhausted, fuzzy-brained, mushy-brained, therefore unproductive.

It is time to stop kidding ourselves. Men were right all along! I mean, of course it’s still useful to be able to talk on the phone while cooking, but typing a post on Facebook while spoon-feeding our baby and listening to Jeremy Vine – that’s not on. Not good for us, not good for our babies (and possibly not for Jeremy either).

Babies and children pick up on the fact that we’re not fully present with them and then they demand our constant attention for hours on end, in the hope that we will finally be present with them, just for 10-15 minutes.

‘Mummy, Mummy, MUMMMMYYYY!’ (or tugging at our skirt/trousers/sleeves if they can’t talk)

And by then, that attention they crave, we can’t give it to them because we have to clean, cook, tidy up, hang the washing, put the dry clothes away and a myriad other things that they think surely can wait but we feel they can’t. At the end of our tether, exhausted from all the demands, we find ourselves saying, ‘Sorry but Mummy really can’t. Believe me my darling, if I could do it all at the same time and read you a story as well, I would, truly I would. But I can’t. Here, play with your teddy.’

And so, collapsing into bed at the end of the day, when we think about how it went (if we still have some thinking energy left), we realise that we were never fully present to anything – not to our baby(ies)/toddler(s)/child(ren), not to our work if we work from home, not to our chores (have you noticed how much more enjoyable they are when you actually pay attention to them as you’re doing them?), not to our husband or partner, in brief not to our life as it is.

Yet when we make an effort to single-task and be present to every task, every chore, every moment with our baby or child, life is a whole lot easier and much more pleasant.

It’s called mindfulness.

Ever since I did Sarah Metcalf’s 8-week course on mindfulness meditation, from September to November 2014, I have been much more mindful – at home with what needs to get done and with my family, during my yoga classes (yoga being mindfulness in itself) and with my clients. In addition, I have been able to help my clients even more by introducing them to mindfulness, recommending teachers, books, CDs, websites and explaining how to practise mindfulness and meditation.

If you are a professional multi-tasker, as I was, maybe it is time to take stock at the beginning of this new year and stop being so smug about it (as I was).

Maybe it is time to recognise that when you multi-task, you exhaust yourself in the long run.

Maybe it is time to become a professional mindful single-tasker.

To find out more about mindfulness, and in particular about mindfulness meditation, contact Sarah Metcalf, emailing her at She leads weekly mindfulness drop-in sessions on Tuesdays, 7-8 p.m., in the yurt at Haddon Acre, She also teaches the Alexander Technique.

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