Meditation and Dharma, Peace of Mind

Single-Tasking: How to do less

You may be one of those people who sometimes, or even often, feels stressed.  What’s stressing us out?  I think many of us would say that there’s just too much to do, and not enough time.  We’re trying to get faster, more productive, and more efficient so that we can get more done.  It can seem radical, then, to suggest that you might actually be calmer and more content by doing less.  Single-tasking is a grounding and soothing practice that can help you keep your life at a sustainable and enjoyable pace.

We know when we’re stressed that we need to relax, rest, rejuvenate.  But if your mind is spinning on overdrive, it might just spin out about resting.  You might find yourself berating yourself for doing a poor job of self-care.  Or becoming overwhelmed as you mentally juggle your schedule this way and that to figure out how to add in daily yoga, walks with friends, a whole new diet, maybe a more supportive job, a trip to Hawaii, and of course child care and a personal assistant who’s willing to work for trade… Suddenly relaxing can seem even more stressful than just continuing with life as usual!

So, here’s a simple (though not always easy) opportunity to ease your load — only do the thing that you’re actually doing.  When you’re driving, drive.  Let yourself take in the experience of sitting, shifting, steering.  Notice the scenery as you drive by.  Be like those people in car commercials, driving for the sheer pleasure of it, taking delight in the play of light and shadow, the joy of hugging a curve.  Planning, list-making, eating, texting can all wait their turn.

Then, when you’re eating, eat.  Smell and taste your food, chew it, digest.  When you’re talking with someone, be with them.  Listen, connect, let yourself be changed.  And in the many moments of lull or pause, don’t rush to add an activity.  Check back in with what is already happening — breath, breeze, the steady movements of weather and daylight, all the impressions of your day settling unnoticed into your mind and body.

When I catch myself in spontaneous moments of content, joy, connection or ease, one of the compelling aspects of that experience is the deeply felt sense that the moment is fine just as it is.  It’s that moment of sharing a laugh with someone and being glad just to linger in shared pleasure.  It’s the moment of putting your feet up and watching the sunset, without any other agenda or anywhere else to be.  Sometimes in moments of pain, sadness, or deep concentration we have the same experience — everything but the fullness of the present drops away, losing it’s pull.

The next time that you feel overwhelmed, rushed or stressed, check to see if you are doing more than is required for the exact activity you are engaged in — unlocking a door, walking down the hallway, listening to someone talk, etc.  If you feel you have too much on your plate, take some items off.  You don’t have to get everything done to earn the right to relax!  Single-tasking can open more space for you instantly.



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  1. Bobbi says:

    Love the title and this idea of “single-tasking” as a way to cultivate present moment awareness.

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