Man At Laptop Looking Out Of Window Thinking

Stop, reflect and think

Don't be seduced by the myth of multi-tasking

Written by Dr. Shaun Ridley FAIM
3 minute read
Man At Laptop Looking Out Of Window Thinking

Stop, reflect and think. There is something strangely appealing about being busy.

It could be the feeling that you matter, that the work you are doing is important or it could just be that it is better than the alternative - being bored because you have nothing to do.

So why would this article promote the exact opposite of busyness by encouraging you to stop, reflect and think?

The mindfulness movement has been around for thousands of years in Eastern spirituality. Relatively recently it has found its way into the corporate world, with some remarkable results.

One dimension of mindfulness aims for the individual to have a complete awareness of the present, of each moment as it occurs, and to respond to this moment alone without the baggage of previous moments that have passed and future moments yet to occur.

In case you haven’t realised it yet, this is tricky to do - but stay with me because the idea is quite profound.

The present is the only thing you can respond to, because that’s all there is. Yesterday has gone and tomorrow is yet to come.

How often do we genuinely stop at work? Stop to be completely present for whatever we are doing right at this very moment.

Too often we are seduced by the myth of multi-tasking and trying to do two, three or more things at once and, as a result, not doing any of them particularly well.

The evidence is very clear, we cannot do two high attention requiring tasks at the same time, at the same level of effectiveness as we could if we had done them one at a time.

There are examples of this human shortcoming every day.

Just watch the manager talking to one of their staff whilst keeping one eye on their emails. If you ask the staff member immediately after the conversation if they felt their manager truly listened to them and was engaged fully in the conversation the answer would be a clear “No”.

So, having made a conscious decision to stop and be present, perhaps we could extend this quiet time a little longer to reflect.

Reflect on what we are doing, why we are doing it and if there is a better way to do it. What a luxury to have such a pause in our day to consider if things could be improved and if so, how.

How much better would we all be at our jobs if only we could step off the treadmill, even for a few minutes a day?

The most difficult part of this process is managing the views and expectations of your work colleagues.

Seeing someone stop work, sit, reflect and think is perceived as idleness because they have no idea what you are thinking and it is not common in most organisations.

Most senior people who understand the benefits of this practice are able to remove themselves from the workplace and find another venue to do this thinking.

More junior staff don’t have this flexibility, yet the benefits exists at all levels.

One small step in the next 24 hours

Block out a one hour spot in your diary each week for thinking.

Call it whatever you like in your calendar, but preserve the timeslot from any other interruptions.

If you need to remove yourself from the workplace, then do so.

Once you have done this for a few weeks, and realised the benefits, then encourage each of your staff to do the same thing.

You could start with a half hour timeslot and rather than having them leave the premises, allow them to go for a walk around the site.

The break and exercise will do them good and you will be surprised at what ideas emerge when you catch-up with them to talk about their performance and their reflections of their team or the organisation.