In our hyper connected world with push notifications, it is not easy to remain focused on any one task. Multi tasking is almost forced on us, and I embraced it for a long time. I believed that in this new world, he who could master multi tasking was king, and I was striving for kingship.
There is a concept that I read about called “time traveling” that goes hand in hand with multi tasking. “Time traveling” is where your mind travels to different places and times (past, future) than the one that you are currently in. I was also an avid time traveler.
My time travels often revolved around work. I would think about work while doing pretty much anything else: eating with friends, walking around a museum, praying in a synagogue. But even during work, I would be thinking about the next task or next day instead on focusing on what I was working on. The problem with time traveling is that it detracts from your ability to enjoy and appreciate the situation that you are currently in.
I was able to multi task less once I realized that it was not the most effective way to actually get things done. But I did not even realize that I was time traveling until recently. I stumbled on an app (headspace) a couple months ago that helped me first realize that my thoughts drift, and then help me develop the presence of mind to stop them from drifting. The exercises accomplish this by presenting mental goals, identifying obstacles to those goals, and introducing novel ways to approach those obstacles.
I still time travel all the time, but now I am more aware of that fact. Something as simple as stopping during the day and checking how my body feels has had an impact. I get so caught up in my day that I don’t pay attention to the signals my body is sending me. Sometimes I realize that my body is tense from sitting all day, so I go for a little walk. Or I realize that my heart rate is elevated and breath shortened so I try to figure out what is making me anxious. I am striving to get better at appreciating what is going on in my life instead of being lost in my thoughts. But it is something that I needed to learn how to do.
I believe these concepts could have a positive affect on many people. Try to pay a little more attention to what you are thinking about. Next time you catch your thoughts drifting somewhere completely unrelated to where you are or what you are doing, redirect your attention to your present situation.