New Year’s resolution: How to avoid the trap of multitasking

Mindfulness expert Marisa Garau shares three tips that will help you kick the habit of unnecessary multitasking in 2020.
woman in an office staring at screen stressedGetty Images

With the end of this year rapidly approaching, we’re racing to get through that pile of last-minute tasks: complete those urgent work projects, buy Christmas presents and organise a multitude of social events. Unfortunately, this month is not an exemption.

If you’re like most people, 2019 revolved mainly around your to-do list and how you struggled to get things done in time. Will 2020 again see you multitasking your head off, yet ending up with ever more tasks on your list… and a growing sense of inadequacy and panic?

Mindfulness-expert Marisa Garau, a stress veteran and survivor of the multitask myth herself, shares three mindfulness tips that will help you put an end to the senseless multitask habit in 2020.

1. Trust that everything will work out

Multitasking and running around in a bid to get everything done in time, is a typical attempt of your ego to brainwash you into thinking that you are incredibly important. If you don’t accomplish all the things on your to-do list well, remember that it’s not the end of the world. The world will keep turning around and everybody will still be doing their own things.

As easy as it is to forget, the world will keep spinning, even if you don’t get everything done in time, Marisa says. (Image: Getty)

Once you remind yourself that no matter what happens, life will still go on, it’s actually quite liberating. It means you don’t have to always be doing stuff or overload your days with tasks and chores to keep the world from falling apart. Instead, you can safely do more of those things that inspire and reinvigorate you.

How to put it into action:

Start by practising the mindfulness principle ‘trust’. When you feel flustered and stressed because of the deadline for that major work project or that complicated family dinner, sit down for a minute and take a few deep breaths. Then tell yourself:

  • ‘I consciously trust that everything will be fine.’

  • ‘I trust that I will complete this task in time.’

  • ‘Would I still remember this stressful situation in 2030? I don’t think so.’

  • ‘I do my best, but I do realise that this particular task is not that important. The survival of mankind doesn’t depend on it, now does it?’

  • ‘I keep a calm mind and won’t allow my ego to stress me out for something that is not that vital anyway.’

2. Slow down

While multitasking you are always switched on… always. And not just that. You are also constantly in a hurry to have your tasks finished within your life-or-death planning. Not so surprising that you overstretch your nerves, and with every setback have an emotional meltdown. With mindfulness you’ll do just the opposite: slowing down.

Now you’ll probably laugh because imagine your manager’s bewildered gaze when you’d tell her: ‘Nope, can’t make that deadline, I’m exploring the enlightening process of slowing down mindfully, you see?’ Still, you can develop the habit of slowing down — yes, even in your hectic life.

How to put it into action:

No, you don’t have to refuse jobs or lazily lean back for hours a day to practise slowing down. You can slow down by simply doing everything you do at a slower pace.

  • Drink your morning coffee slowly and taste it consciously

  • Walk to the office kitchen/garden/water cooler slowly (take the stairs) and observe the bodily sensations of walking

  • Write an email slowly, with full attention to the right tone

  • Listen to your colleague with patience, rather than trying to get rid of him asap

  • Scroll through your Instagram feed and pick a photo to really take in, rather than quickly scanning it

Marisa suggests slowing down and practising being present to all the things you’re doing. Whether that’s drinking your morning coffee slowing and paying attention to how it tastes, to even when you’re on Instagram – taking time to really take in a photo, rather than quickly scanning it and scrolling on. (Image: Getty)

Slowing down gives you inner peace but it also adds quality to your everyday life. By slowing down you allow yourself to do your tasks with more attention, which will give you more joy and more fulfilment. It’s the mindless running around that drains you of your zest for life. Slow down a bit, and you’ll experience a new dimension that you didn’t know existed.

3. Redesign your life in 2020

When you’re caught in the claws of the multitasking monster, you are constantly in a hurry, never being able to catch your breath let alone rethink your ineffective habits and pitfalls or consider hippy-dippy stuff like honest introspection and connecting with your deeper self. But you must be painfully aware of the consequences of this attitude: stress, anxiety, low self-esteem and a lack of inner fulfilment.

The popular starting point to free yourself from the multitask trap is asking yourself: ‘What do I want?’ But you must have noticed that that’s not actually helpful, because you don’t really know what you want — and no-one does, welcome to the rest of the world!

‘What do I want’ is a dead end question and please don’t feel tempted to get into its particulars, because it won’t deliver, let alone give you the life you long for.

How to put it into action:

I advise clients who I mentor to contemplate a slightly different, yet far more powerful question: ‘Who would I like to be?’

This question encompasses the whole universe that is your life: your relations, health, finances and societal contribution. So who would you like to be — if you would allow yourself to follow your own morality and ethic values, instead of trying to frantically adapt to the role that you think you need to play.

Instead of asking yourself ‘What do I want?’ ask yourself ‘Who would I like to be?’ a far more powerful and contemplative question, Marisa says. (Image: Getty)

If you’re serious about escaping the multitasking trap in the New Year, dedicate the Christmas holidays to think about your personal values and the choices your best self would and wouldn’t make.

  • Would you rather go fast and have shallow encounters, or slow down and create experiences worth remembering?

  • Would you rather scroll through your Facebook feed or have an inspiring conversation with a loved one?

  • Would you rather be a strict manager or a much-loved leader?

  • Would you rather work long hours to provide financial comfort for your family, or work less and be fully present with plenty of time for play and talk?

Envisioning your best self helps to create a clear picture of the life that suits you. Once you have this vision, you can start taking steps towards a stress-free life that will enable you to grow and thrive rather than groan and survive.

Mindfulness expert Marisa Garau helps endlessly multitasking people reduce their stress and create a more fulfilling life with her meditation-free approach to mindfulness. On her online platform Growing Mindfulness you’ll find more information about her hands-on personal coaching programme.

Related stories