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Multi-tasking was voted one of the top business buzzwords in 2013. Doing two or three things at the same time was believed to increase productivity and efficiency. Luckily the word lost the 'buzz'. A simple internet search now shows that the trend is to move away from trying to accomplish too much in a short space of time. Researchers conclude that multi-tasking does not work, it doesn't increase efficiency, it can actually damage our brain and it is simply a failing game. It seems that we are not meant to do a few things at once.
So what can we do to manage our work better? What can we do to stick to our New Year's resolutions for longer than a month? Cue new buzzword: Mindfulness. Whether you have heard about it or not, whether you like trendy new buzzwords or not, give it some thought and you may discover the beauty of it.
Too often we find ourselves being stretched to our limits when we need to attend to an email, answer the phone at the same time while eating lunch. On top of that someone is already waiting at the door to speak to us and a document we were working on prior to all this is in the back of our mind. Sound familiar? We were once fooled to believe that this is how we ought to sustain efficiency. Unfortunately, the outcome is precisely the opposite of the intention.
Dr Romie Mushtaq, neurologist and wellness speaker, concludes that multi-tasking can depress your brain's memory and analytical functions. On top of that, it seems to increase the reduction of blood flow to the part of the right temporal lobe which contributes to creative thinking.
On the other hand, according to Mushtaq, "practicing mindfulness, whether it's simply taking deep breaths, or actually meditating or doing yoga, has been shown to alter the structure and function of the brain, which is what allows us to learn, acquire new abilities, and improve memory," She says that "advances in neuroimaging techniques have taught us how these mindfulness-based techniques affect neuroplasticity."
Saying that, how do we apply these techniques at work and life in general? There certainly isn't always time to meditate or do yoga. The true power of mindfulness in everyday life is to maintain your focus on one task, to fully immerse yourself in the activity. Distractions are obviously inevitable. It is, however, your choice to keep your attention on your task or allow the distractions to overwhelm you. And it truly becomes your choice only if you are aware of your attention.
The amazing thing is that taking control of your focus and allowing yourself to experience each activity you engage in, brings a sense of grounding, depth and being in touch with yourself. In fact, it is proven to lower stress since a major part of stress is worrying about the past or the future.
So in the words of Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction technique, "The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing."