A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about how I meditate; meditation and yoga are examples of formal mindfulness practices. But we don’t have to be sitting with our eyes closed or twisting ourselves into pretzels in order to practice mindfulness; we can choose to reconnect with the present moment at any time. Any of our daily activities—from brushing our teeth to drinking coffee or washing the dishes—represent an opportunity for informal mindfulness practice. Regardless of what we are doing, we always have a choice: we can pay attention to what we are feeling, thinking, and doing, or we can be a million miles away in our own mind, ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.
Informal mindfulness practice is essentially the opposite of multitasking; it is making a conscious decision to singletask. It’s remarkable how much time we spend multitasking; we eat in front of the TV, talk on the phone in the car, and make dinner while helping our kids with an art project or their homework. Even when we’re physically doing just one thing, our minds are often multitasking for us—running through our task list, worrying about a sick child, or rehashing a conversation with a spouse.
We like to tell ourselves that we benefit from multitasking. We’re so productive! We’re getting so much done, and so quickly! We’re solving the family’s problems, roasting a chicken, and planning a birthday party all at once! But research has found that we’re actually less efficient and effective when we’re doing more than one thing once. Furthermore, life isn’t just about getting things done. Parenting certainly isn’t.