Mindfulness favours mono-tasking, the opposite of the multi-tasking ‘skill’ so popular in modern society. I think we’re conditioned to wear it as a badge of honour, the fact that we can do five things at once. Take the common pre-dinnertime routine where we:
· Talk on the phone with our headphones in
· Cook the dinner
· Help with homework
· Feed the dog
· Feed the toddler
It is possible to do all these things at once but do we really want to? Are we so time poor that we can’t give due attention to all of these activities separately? Is it satisfying to correct homework while feeding the toddler? Not for the toddler! Not for the child whose homework you’re helping with – is that sending a ‘what you are doing is important message?’ And not for us as the adult – that warm fuzzy feeling of connection will surely escape us and instead turn into a frantic way of living our lives.
As a role model for our children we need to think about the message we are sending. If we engage in mono-tasking ourselves, our children will surely learn the value of giving due attention to what we are currently doing. You can help them to be more mindful by encouraging them to work on one thing at a time. If they are having an afternoon snack, then let’s not ride our bike at the same time! If they’re having dinner, let’s not engage with social media as well! And if our children are talking to us then they need attention paid to them – habits start young and they start with us!
So what’s the solution to the pre-dinnertime dilemma? Can we start the dinner and then feed the toddler – neither can probably wait! My lowest priority would be the phone call – make it later and send a message to the children that they are the highest priority on your list. Let your partner feed the dog and check the homework – the primary caregiver is not a super-hero and spreading the load always makes sense.
You can model mindful mono-tasking by answering the kids or your partner's requests for your attention with, “Well right now I’m doing this but when I’ve finished I will help you with that.” If you consistently mean what you say, they will come to accept the wait and come to accept that mono-tasking is normal.
Concentrating on one thing at a time is much more satisfying and brings calm into our lives as well as setting a great example to our children to be mindful, with due care and attention being paid to whatever we are doing, no matter how small.
Here’s a little excerpt from my soon to be released book, Making Mindful Magic, not to be a goal all of the time but definitely a good lesson on how to concentrate your efforts on just one thing!
Take As Long As you Can
Why hurry? Must everything be fast?
Is there a prize?
As slowly as you can
walk up stairs
draw a picture
make your bed
The prize is feeling calm
Making Mindful Magic will be available through our shop on 2 November!