Have you ever heard the saying, “there will be time for sleep when you’re dead”? I was thinking about this today - about the busy, crazy world we’re living in, and the unwritten, societal expectation that we all need to multitask so we can do more, and more, and more.

But, how much are we really getting done when we’re focused on at least three things at once, all the time? I, for one, feel like the more I try to do, the less I really get done, and the more overwhelmed I feel. Making even a small decision, under these circumstances, turns into a huge obstacle that breeds procrastination and mediocrity.

Stephen Covey’s seventh habit (of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) is “Sharpen the Saw: Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal.” One question he asks in this chapter is, “have you ever been so busy driving that you forgot to stop to buy gas?” I’ve always been struck by the irony of that question, which illustrates how counterproductive it is to keep pushing yourself further while failing to provide the basic fuel (or tools) required to accomplish the task that is seemingly so important.

Still not convinced that multitasking is, at the least, slowing your productivity - at most, dangerous and destructive? Consider a recent Stanford study that shows that the brains of multitaskers may be paying a big mental price. After undergoing a series of three tests designed to measure memory and attention, those who were identified as heavy media multitaskers (who regularly juggle several e-mail and instant message conversations at once, text message while watching tv, etc.), were found to be easily distracted and unable to keep things separate in their minds. This habit affects the task at hand and memory, since heavy multitaskers are constantly drawing from all the information in front of them (not utilizing or exercising their memory). Researchers are studying further whether chronic media multitaskers have an innate inability to concentrate or are causing damage to their cognitive control by taking in as much as they do at once.

If you, like most of us, think that you’re wasting time while stopped in traffic if you’re not also on your cell phone and thinking about what to pack for an upcoming trip, it may just be time to STOP. Take a break from multitasking. Challenge yourself to limit your focus to only one thing at a time, just for one hour a day, and see how you feel. My guess is that we will all feel a little more centered and a lot more productive.

For more tips and inspiration to living a simplified life, visit the blog, mnmlist: the essentials and read this article.

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