Directing your thoughts in a Multi- tasking World

Taking a break

Two days in the mountains have done wonders for me. I’m beginning to feel my thoughts, worries and emotions calming down, concentration improving as well as an improvement in my general attitude towards life. What I did notice, though, was that it does take me two days at least to switch off from my worry channel, the impulse to answer every email immediately and to solve everything. Today I even forgot to switch my phone on for a few hours :-).
One exercise to clear your mind
I have written before about mindfulness, and it is something that, I think, you have to nurture. This does not necessarily mean meditating in the pure sense, although I would strongly recommend it too. Here is a simple exercise that you can do anywhere that will help to slow down the crazy dance of the “out of control” mind:
1. Take the time to stop and look around you;
2. Notice the small life moments, the waiter across the road opening the sunshades over tables, or the wedding which is taking place in he square, and the tourists taking photos;
3. Notice your perceptions: the feel of the rain on your skin or the smell of the baker’s across the road, as well as the sounds of voices, that are shouting in the street, music or radio playing in shops; just notice them without irritation or pleasure, suspending judgment or labelling them (giving things names like : music, drunk in the street, car etc.) and simply notice these perceptions, and the effect they have on you. Is a sound loud, where is it coming from? Behind your head, through your left ear more strongly? How do you react to the sound? Etc. Etc.
This is a simple exercise that you can do at any time, anywhere, and it does wonders for slowing your thoughts down, clearing your mind and improving your ability to concentrate and think about one thing at a time.
Resisting the Siren Song of the Internet
Mindfully concentrating on one thing at a time is a skill which is not very popular in our world of multitasking but it is one that I am convinced we, as educators, (or aducators as I like to consider our role in the 21 st Century) could be teaching our learners. We all know how easy it is to be distracted on Google, one click leading so easily to another until we have wasted half an hour, and are miles away from what we were originally looking for. Here is an example:
I went online to look for a hotel in Glasgow. This is what happened:
1. My antivirus told me that it needed to be updated, so I dealt with that;
2. I went onto Google and found the usual list of hotels on different booking sites;
3. As I was looking at one the was a beep as a meesage came into my email box, so I went to look at that;
4. It was from a student eho wanted me to approve her access to our class wiki;
5. I went onto the class wiki, approved her as a member and noticed that there was a message from another student;
6. I went to check that message and downloaded his homework onto my desktop…
And so on and so on. Half an hour had passed and I had not actually managed to look at hotels in Glasgow! Des this sound familiar?

Approaching your time online Mindfully

The mindful approach (which I am now trying to apply with varying deees of success, I must admit) is to decide what I’m going to do in advance, and this may well include ten minutes to “see what’s going on” or it may be to look up hotels in Glasgow. Goal setting even for is type of activity helps me to avoid wasting time, and getting stressed into the bargain.

These are precisely the type of skills that I think our learners need to be deveoping too, and what we could be teaching them, so that wasting time by minless multitasking can be avoided. They are simple skills but they do not perhaps come so naturally to us, and the call of the mouse is tempting and strong. Anyway, I’m finding it quite helpful and I thought you might too :-).


4 thoughts on “Directing your thoughts in a Multi- tasking World

  1. Hey Sharon-

    I too have been a nurturer of mindfulness of the years. I remember just pausing for a minute before I would go off to classes every morning. Feel my heartbeat, my breath. Let go of the rest, and then I’d walk off to class calm.

    Your point about deciding what to do when jumping on the internet is so true. Mindfulness on the internet. I think you’ve found a convert ! Cheers, Brad

    1. Thanks for that Brad,
      Yes, pausing for a moment before going into class can really be necessary… Particularly those scary first classes, when you don’t know what is waiting for you. Walking is good too, even if just a few minutes from he busstop, or whatever, to the classroom, can provide that breathing space :-).

  2. If I had read this post a year ago I wouldn’t have known what you were talking about. Now that I have discovered this amazing world of fascinating blogs I must take your words of advice to heart!
    Thank you!

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