Constant task switching
I know I’m losing focus when I’m always jumping around from task to task.
This is a “red flag” for me — a sign that I’m doing something wrong. You’ve done it too: switching from one browser tab to another, opening various emails and other messages, checking on this and that: no focus, lots of stress, lots of mental exhaustion without really getting anything done.
It means that I’ve lost myself in a chain of endless distraction, and am not truly conscious of what I’m doing.
When this red flag shows itself, I have a few simple solutions:
- Assess what’s important. What should I be working on right now? I know it’s not the million little things. It’s something big that I’m probably avoiding. Often this means taking a step back to re-examine my priorities.
- Simplify. Constant switching usually means I’m overloaded. I’ve taken on too much. I need to let go of the idea that I’m going to get everything done and focus on what I can get done today. That might mean emailing or calling people to tell them I can’t do something today (or this week). I let go of tasks or projects, decide they’re not essential and cross them off my list or put them on a “later” list that I’ll look at next week. Simplifying helps me to find focus again.
- Clear everything. If I have a task to focus on, I like to clear all tabs or close the browser and anything else that I don’t need to be doing right now. And have one task in front of me. This makes a huge difference. When you limit your options, you get good at sticking to what’s there.
- Stay with the moment. Often we get lost in rushing around between tasks. When I clear everything away, I try to stay with this task and do my best to be mindful of my urges to check on something or switch to something more comfortable but less critical. I am cognizant of my thoughts, of my body responses to what I’m doing. This focus, then, becomes a mindfulness exercise.
The practice of simplifying, clearing things away and staying with what I’m doing is incredibly useful, and something I haven’t mastered yet.
In my experience, it’s a process of letting go and accepting.
Letting go of all the little urges to be up-to-date, to be in-the-know, to do everything, to say yes to everything.
And accepting this present moment as it is, and staying with it.
This letting goes and accepting, by the way, is the secret to happiness and peace. It’s worth practicing.
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