In the late 1970s, people talked of the upcoming ‘age of leisure’, as technology would liberate us from the daily drudgery of work, and we’d only have to work three days a week. As many of us will appreciate, this isn’t quite how things turned out.
Far from liberating us from work, we are now more subjected than ever to a relentless bombardment of data, with no respite from work, as it can chase us home (or anywhere in the world) via our smartphones and other digital gadgets.
On the one hand, we have boundless access to information (and each other), but on the other hand, we can become quickly lost in it all as multiple tasks beckon for our attention at the same time. Many of us have learned, by experience, how to be highly efficient multitaskers.
Some people take pride in their multitasking skills and ability to perform; however, a study led at Stanford University proved that high multitaskers are less effective at multitasking than low-multitaskers (it’s just that they think they’re better.)
It seems that multitaskers are less able to recognise what is urgent and essential than those who don’t claim to be good multitaskers at all. A later study showed that students who multitask while studying had to study longer, and even this prolonged work time did not make up the difference, and their grades were more mediocre.
The sorts of exercises they were engaged in at the same time as studying are similar to many of us – checking social media, messenger services, watching youtube etc. So it’s fair to appreciate that, yes, multitasking might assist us in some circumstances. Still, it’s also useful to note that we can only excel in something when this ‘something’ has our full undivided attention for a prolonged period.
“In effect, dividing your attention means that neither (or none) of the things you’re working on is really getting the full effect of your intelligence, and that it in the end takes you longer than it would if you did one thing at a time.“– James Surowiecki
Many people of today are so caught up with the day to day life; we don’t prioritise investing time to sit and honestly evaluate ourselves. We don’t always comprehend why people respond to us as they do, and it’s easy to become wholly preoccupied with our to-do lists and multitasking endeavours. Many of us don’t take time to consider other people.
It is possible to be more careful in choosing where we focus our attention. If we make a conscious decision about what’s important to us, we can take a more proactive approach in deciding what we notice and remember. We can choose to take off our ‘blinkers’ and reveal more of the reality we want to see. In essence, we can change our experience.
Here are four steps that if implemented, will help you to become more aware of your priorities and begin taking a more proactive approach towards obtaining more of the things you want in life.
1) Check-in with yourself.
Be honest about what is most important to you right now? What are your expectations – concerning the situation or other people? What concerns or requirements do you have that aren’t being satisfied? Why do you feel as you do (restless, unfulfilled, etc.)?
2) Learn to appreciate your mental filters.
The quality of our thinking massively influences the quality of our emotional experience. Once we can identify the most common thought patterns that occupy our minds, we can start to choose differently. How we perceive our daily interactions will determine what we believe. We must learn to accept that our perception isn’t always reality.
3) Identify what matters most to you.
Our values direct our decision making, but sadly there is no mandate through much of society which teaches us how to understand and prioritise our values. Values are simply those aspects of our experience we couldn’t live without; security, freedom, growth and connection are just some of our most prominent core values.
For example, would it be more useful to actively seek to strengthen the connection you have with a family member, or would it be better for them to know all the specific details about how they’ve wronged and upset you? Now clearly this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring up challenging topics. Still, any future discussion you have is likely to go very differently if you predetermine what your main priorities are.
4) Self Management and Improved Effectiveness
As we become more aware of our thought patterns and give more consideration to what our priorities are, we can then start to direct our attention and efforts towards more of what we actually want.
Becoming self-aware is about increasing our capacity and willingness to focus on just one thing at any one given moment in time. So, if you are inclined to multitask, rather than allowing your mind to fluctuate between tasks, discipline yourself to focus on doing just one thing at any one given moment in time – with excellence.
If you’re driving a dialogue with someone; rather than rationally rehearsing what you’re going to say next, focus your attention on really listening to what the other person is saying with curiosity and intrigue. Becoming more Self-aware is about developing acknowledgement and appreciation for the present moment.
We should understand that in the same way we often say and do things that we don’t mean, so do other people. Becoming more self-aware is about recognising and accepting that as imperfect people, we’re never going to act and behave perfectly. This allows us to extend more unconditional acceptance towards others, which in turn makes us the kind of people that others want to be around.
People always make the most suitable choices they can, according to the data they have available to them at the time. Understanding this allows us to withhold judgment when we don’t understand the actions that a person takes. All our efforts have at least one goal – to accomplish something that we value and that will benefit us.
A person is not their behaviour. When we become more aware that there’s a better choice of behaviour that will also achieve the same positive intention, the decision is often straightforward to make.
If we want to protect the trust in the relationships we have with other people; then we must not jump to conclusions about what we think their intentions are. We must instead take time to understand what their aims are.
Usually, I would leave you by asking a thought-provoking question, but I assume you have enough to think about in this article.