I have a story, or a bit of a rant, perhaps…

On my way to work every day, I drive a side-street, two lanes in each direction, to get to the main highway. A street light stands at this very busy intersection where the two-lane street meets the highway. Traffic backs up for a few blocks as people wait to either turn left onto the highway, go straight through the intersection, or turn right onto the highway. I turn right.

In the few blocks leading up to the busy intersection, there are other small streets and parking lots which intersect. Cars need to turn off the two-lane street onto the small streets and into the lots. But, often, other cars are blocking the way. People have not paid attention to where they are or what they are blocking. They know they need to stop due to the traffic waiting for the street light. And they stop right behind the car in front of them. Like sheep.

I pat myself on the back for always leaving space for cars to get through; I do not want to block an intersection, cause a back-up, or increase congestion. And when I drive past those who have blocked an intersection, I yell, (inside my car with the windows shut… no one can hear me, and I don’t have road rage) “You idiot! You’re blocking the street!”

It seriously bugs me that people do not seem to pay attention to what they are doing and they cause problems for other drivers.

I assume these street-blocking drivers are engrossed in the radio, talking on the phone, texting, or just deep in thought. Some may be jerks who don’t care they are blocking others; but most, I am sure, do it by accident. They are not paying attention to all of their surroundings.

We benefit from paying attention to what we are doing when we’re doing it. Multitasking, although meant to make us more productive, actually reduces productivity. Doing two different things that require different kinds of attention reduces our ability to do either one well. Some say it is the sure way to do both jobs poorly. I think our culture and modern lifestyle makes a lot of demands on our attention, and sometimes the schedule and constant demands take over.

But I believe we can be in charge of our schedule and demands. We can be intentional with our thoughts and attention. Entire industries involving meditation and yoga have sprung from our culture’s desire to slow down, to take a break from the demands of modern-day life. They help shut out the clutter and help us focus.

I don’t know if you struggle with this–multitasking or not paying attention to what you’re doing. But if you do, I encourage you to try an experiment. Consciously think about, attend to, the task at hand. Try to finish the email you are working on before looking at the one that just came in. Avoid answering the phone if you are engrossed in a project. Put your cell phone in your pocket or purse while at work rather than letting it pull your attention away each time it dings or vibrates.

If you do this experiment, intentionally focus your attention, I believe you will find three positive results:

  • You will enjoy the task or event rather than simply checking it off the list, onto the next thing.
  • The project or work will be done, touched once and finished, rather than drug out through distraction.
  • You will accomplish more in your day than you do when you let the demands of multitasking control you.

Make it a great week!