Multitasking—it’s the small-business owner’s Red Bull. Without it, you feel like you’ll never get through all you have to do in a day, right?
Well, get this: “The newest research shows that multitasking results in greater stress and lower productivity. That means that the more you try to get done at once, the less you get done in practice,” says David Dillard-Wright, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina Aiken and author of Meditation for Multitaskers: Your Guide to Finding Peace Between the Pings.
If you’re thinking, Research, smesearch. Give me one good reason why I should change the way I work, Dillard-Wright offers this word: “Peace.”
“I think that we have been conditioned to believe that life must be hectic and unmanageable,” he says, “that it’s just a dog-eat-dog world and we all have to scramble to survive. That mentality leads to a lower standard of living, measured in quality of life, for everyone.”
Dillard-Wright says meditation has been shown in a number of peer-reviewed studies to reduce stress and improve health, not to mention focus. And, he says, “far from being impractical or escapist, meditation actually induces a more realistic perception of the world by helping us to see clearly.”
Meditation can also help you learn to remain calm in bumper-to-bumper traffic. It changes your thought processes, says Dillard-Wright, “getting to the very basis of problems like depression and anxiety. Oftentimes we think that something must be wrong externally with our lives when the real problem lies in false perceptions.”
To begin, try sitting still for a few minutes and noticing your breathing. Count the breaths or listen to some soothing music. Don’t overcomplicate it. Be quiet, and let that be enough.
Stress Less › Get relaxation on the go with these apps for meditation and stress reduction.
Stress Free Meditations with Deepak Chopra—Five relaxing soundtracks, including breathing and sleep programs, guided by the meditation master. $1.99 for iPhone/iPad
StressPile—A stress tracker that helps you identify where and when you’re most vulnerable to a meltdown so you can start to manage repeat offenders. Free for iPhone/iPad
Simply Being—Guided voice meditation for 5-20 minutes, plus music or nature sound options. $0.99 for iPhone/iPad/Android
Meditation Objections › Think you can’t meditate? You’re not alone.
♦ I’m not crossing my legs like that.
“Don’t get too focused on having the proper techniques,” says David Dillard-Wright, author of Meditation for Multitaskers. “Meditation should be the simplest, most intuitive part of your life. There are plenty of good meditation teachers, but practice is the best teacher of all. In the beginning, don’t be intimidated and just get started. Silence will teach you everything you need to know.”
♦ I can’t sit still that long.
“The ability to sit for longer periods of time comes with practice. Everyone has a set point beyond which continuing to sit brings diminished returns. You will know when you have reached that point when you either fall asleep or want to throw something against the wall. Just like in physical exercise, you develop your meditation ‘muscles’ with repeated use.”
♦ My mind never shuts up.
“You don’t have to master your mind in order to meditate, if mastery means beating it into submission. As thoughts arise you simply dismiss them, like pop-up advertisements.”
♦ I have about five minutes of spare time.
“Meditation is as simple as taking a few deep breaths and developing a receptive attitude toward the world. Rather than imposing your will on reality, you simply pay attention to whatever arises in yourself or in the world.”