Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mindful driving and Brain space

I've been all worried for awhile because it seems my brain ain't as good as it used to be. I've also been describing my to-do list by likening it to me standing under Niagara Falls and trying to deal with every drop of water. When you're under the falls, sometimes it's a little hard to see the forest for the trees, not to mix metaphors or anything.

So I have been on a quest of sorts, with a two-pronged emphasis (ever the multi-tasker!). First, I have been exploring the idea of what it would be like to be kind to myself, instead of keeping my whip going 24/7. At the same time, i have been trying to explore ways to whip my brain back into shape. ('Scuse the pun -- I happen to love them.)

I usually jot down any books Brian mentions during the service and check them out of the library. At that point, my effectiveness ends. The books sit on my bedside table, throwing me mournful looks every evening as I select a novel or a movie on my iPad instead of reading the non-fiction books. It's kinda like the old song -- I'm not gonna read the books -- they're just hiding a nasty stain just lyin' there. (much too cryptic reference to the 1975 10cc song.)

Recently I didn't read "The Way We're Working Isn't Working." I read enough to get the gist -- we need to manage our energy more than we need to manage our time. This idea allows us to work with our natural ultradian rhythm. Don't worry, I just learned the word yesterday. It seems "we" have gradually evolved into a belief that we should work like computers -- at high speeds, continuously, for long periods of time. Apparently, we humans aren't quite computers -- we PULSE through cycles of high and low energy.

Recently I DID read Amy Alkon's book, "I See Rude People." and I finally decided that it is actually rude for me to multi-task while I drive. Previously, I had heard it was dangerous to do, but I believed myself to be the exception. Whether or not I was above-, below-, or right at- average, I was putting my own preferences above everyone else's and in the context of polite society, that's rude. Then yesterday, during a webinar by the author of "The Way We're Working..." I really got it that multi-tasking is not more efficient. And then I began to observe myself as I flit from thi g to thing, rarely finishing one at all, let alone before I start the next one.

According to organization pro David Meyer, switching between tasks takes 25% longer to complete the first task, plus errors are more likely.

And another book that I could arguably say I am currently reading discusses this concept of mindfulness, of being mindful about what I am doing right now. THAT book is actually about food and eating, but all the books meshed Into this idea: what would happen if I did one thing at a time and paid attention to that one thing?

Turns out, a lot of really good things. But I am most excited about something that came to me while I drove today. No phone. No radio. No mail at the traffic lights. No food or drink. Just mindful driving. And I had an actual creative idea for a character and a story. This is major for me. Normally, the thoughts are flying fast and furious, but rarely are they creative or interesting.

According to Tony Schwartz, the difference between people who multi-task and those who are mindful of one thing is the ability to delay gratification. That's another whole subject and post for a other time, but I can see how easy it is to creep into seeking constant stimulation through email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, news feeds, books, etc. For me, I love the idea of slowing down and experiencing my life while I am living it, instead of always being ten steps ahead or looking back. I see good things coming from this.

1 comment:

Mia said...

Hi Susan, I haven't been able to visit your blog in a while, so it was nice to be able to catch up! (Loved the post about traveling in a van... it sure reminds me of traveling with my big family when I was little!) Anyway, this is a thought-provoking post. I've been thinking about this multi-tasking beast as well. On one hand, I feel like I've had to multi-task, or else nothing would get done... but looking back, I would say the difference lies in the QUALITY of the work when I multi-task vs when I don't, as well as the level of enjoyment that comes out of it... and that enjoyment comes from mindfulness. Makes sense...

Hugs to Kepler!