Concentration and the Myth of Multi-tasking

A common myth is that women can multi-task and men can’t. In fact, no one can multi-task in the true sense of the word. Multi-tasking implies that you are simultaneously doing and thus concentrating on a range of different activities. For example, you might be cooking dinner, whilst watching TV and talking to your wife. If we could truly multi-task, this would mean that we are able to concentrate 100% on all three of these activities at the same time. This is simply impossible! Our attention is NOT on all three activities at the same time, but rather, is flitting back and forth between them. In essence, we are training our mind to not attend to one activity for too long, but to move back and forth continuously.

This unfortunately, is one of the problems with the fast-paced, modern world we live in. There is so much going on, so much to do and think about each day, that we inadvertently allow our mind to flip-flop between activities. We concentrate on one job, but as soon as another one comes along, we allow our mind to now focus on this new job. More often than not, we try and do both jobs simultaneously! Our mind is rapidly moving between the two. It happens all the time. Have you ever searched the internet for something, only to end up an hour later looking at websites, or checking your email, tasks that have nothing to do with what you set out to achieve in the first place?

This type of mind “multi-tasking” is basically training the mind to only concentrate on one thing for a short period of time, and to be easily drawn to distracting stimuli. If we allow our mind to flip-flop constantly in all areas of our lives, how can we expect our mind to concentrate for long periods of time when we are on the sports field? In a way, it’s unfair to expect our minds to behave in the way we would like them to if we allow mental laziness the rest of the time.

If we want to try and maintain focus on the field for long periods of time, we have to train our minds off the field to concentrate for similarly lengthy time-periods. Focus on ONE activity at a time. If another activity comes up, distracting the mind and pulling it away from the first activity, allow that activity to wait while you finish the first. When you decide to switch focus from one thing to another, make a conscious decision to do so, rather than being drawn unconsciously to the more demanding or distracting activity. In this way, the mind will learn to acknowledge, but not fully concentrate on the distracting stimuli that constantly arise and maintain focus on the task at hand.  To practice this try some simple mindfulness exercises like mindful eating. Try and do this with every activity or task that set out to do.

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