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Mindfulness And Multitasking: Can You Do Both At Once?

Well, how did that happen? It’s February already…

So maybe you’re already right back into the swing of things, drawn back to the thousand appointments and meetings and obligations calling your name – just like all these little Post-it notes stuck to the window in the photo, above, practically obscuring the person who put them there.

All that stuff that wants to be done. Now. (Or maybe even wanted to be done by January…)

How do you approach it all? Whether it’s your salaried work or your parenting or managing your health or keeping up with friends and family (and somewhere in there, also living the rest of your life). How do you do it?

Do you multitask? Throw a few things in together and return to a juggling routine you maybe know all too well?

Maybe it feels like you do. But do you really?

What if some of the research thinks that’s impossible?

When I went to the Mind And Its Potential conference late last year, one of the many inspiring speakers there was a guy called Rasmus Hougaard from The Potential Project. He thinks multitasking’s a myth. And he pointed to a slew of research to back that up (some of which is outlined here and here).

Basically, the theory is that even though it feels like you’re doing a stack of things at once, you’re actually just switching between them. At lightning speed.

And every time you switch, it robs more energy from you. More focus. More “brain power,” until pretty soon, you’re spending significant amounts of time and effort just in the switching back and forth, rather than on the tasks themselves.

And it can leave you fairly frazzled…
(Know the feeling? I do. Even though it’s only February.)

Instead, Hougaard advocates turning towards mindfulness.
Just to do one thing at a time.
And to do it consciously.


So what would it be like to pick just one thing?
To give it your whole focus.
To complete it if you want.

Or, if there are suddenly multiple distractions – if your boss or a new task or a deadline wanders in and “interrupts” your flow – then to just choose which singular thing you’ll focus on now. Either your original task or the “distraction.” And just do that.

The idea is not to try to do everything at once: not to try to listen to someone while another part of you just wants to finish an email you started (as you flick between catching snatches of conversation and then remembering bits of what you want to write).

Just pick one thing. And a whole lot of space might just open up for you. And energy. And maybe even time.

Well, that’s the theory anyway.

What’s your experience?


Text and photo copyright: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar
Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a writer, blogger and Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She was the former editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.
Mindfulness And Multitasking: Can You Do Both At Once?

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

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APA Reference
Gawne-Kelnar, G. (2019). Mindfulness And Multitasking: Can You Do Both At Once?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 10, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Mar 2019
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