One Task, Mindfully.

    The word multi-tasking was first used in the mid 1960s to describe a computer processing unit that was able to perform more than one task at a time. Since then, it has come to be applied to the daily life of humans, and the suggestion that we are capable of fulfilling several –- or many – functions simultaneously.   
    Certainly the human brain has processing capacity far greater than any current machine.  The average human has 100 billion neurons (brain cells). For comparison,  in February 2012 the world's fastest supercomputer, Fujitsu K, had 88,000 processors, each having eight processors within its core, for a total of 705,204 processors. 705,204 is a tiny fraction of 100 billion.
    James Dewey Watson,  American scientist and co-discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule, has written “The brain is the last and grandest biological frontier, the most complex thing we have yet discovered in our universe. It contains hundreds of billions of cells interlinked through trillions of connections. The brain boggles the mind.”
Miracle Brain
    Experts estimate that a human brain deals with  60,000 to  80,000 processes each day. The brain oversees most physical systems without any intervention by conscious thought or effort. It seamlessly coordinates digestion and elimination; circulation and respiration. We never need to think about perspiring to grow cooler, or when our heart should next beat.  There is no need to consider when to extract oxygen from the air we breathe; release antibodies into the bloodstream; form new skin cells under the aging ones, or grow hair.
    Our brains handle all of this, maintaining our physical existence and the environment in which we live, all the time, without any supervision from our conscious minds. I find the physicality of human life, and the ability of the brain to superintend, miraculous.
    Despite this amazing truth, human consciousness is profoundly not good at multi-tasking.
   Research reports that multi-tasking reduces productivity and increases error rates. Multimedia pioneer Linda Stone coined the phrase "continuous partial attention" for the kind of multitasking where interactions are shallow. When we skim a paper document while we chat on the phone and sort emails on a screen, we are not fully present in any one of the jobs, and neuron-counts notwithstanding, we are not able to be present with multiple sources of stimulation. One estimate states that businesses in the USA lose $650 billion a year due to multi-tasking.
     I am not ashamed to admit that my attempts to multi-task have led to my energies being scattered. Not only do I fail to complete all the tasks, I fail to reach any of the multiple goals. I am a person who, putting effort into a narrow focus, can work and finish a job; checking items off a list by addressing them one after another.   
    My natural human ability is to uni-task, and I am not alone. There is benefit to be found in stepping away from our busy days filled with demanding work requirements.
    Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, and activist Thich Nhat Nanh says that “looking deeply at any one thing, we see the whole cosmos” which perhaps echoes William Blake's sentiment when he expounded on the concept “To see a World in a Grain of Sand -- And a Heaven in a Wild Flower -- Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand -- And Eternity in an hour”.
    Steve Armstrong suggests that being fully present improves the experience we have in any moment. “By cultivating skillful attitudes of mind, we will respond to more and more of life with awareness and wisdom. With steady awareness of the way things are, the perseverance to stay with that awareness, and the willingness to learn from it, we maximize our sense of well-being.”
    I believe that this might be an ideal antidote to the busy-ness of modern life.

     I have been supporting clients through change and growth since the 1980s.
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