I remember when multitasking became a desired skill.  I was in college at CMU, learning Excel in a business class.  Somewhere in between my teacher’s rant on relevant work experience and the proper spacing on our resumes, I can remember her stating that we had better learn how to multitask.  I didn’t really understand what that meant until my first job out of college.  I was sent to a “task-management” training class hosted by Franklin Covey.  Learning how to manage my time was the purpose.  It came natural to me.  I was a project coordinator and was able to keep track of anywhere between 10-20 project statuses on a daily basis.  I could switch gears at any moment, depending on what was “hot”.  My skills carried over with me from job to job.

When working in the IT department of a bank, it was revered to be able to install software on multiple machines at the same time.  My co-worker was known for her multitasking skills and could have 8 or more remote desktop sessions open, all installing software at the same time.  She was proud of her skills and we were all inspired to work faster and more efficiently to get more done in less time.

I considered myself an extraordinary multitasker.  It quickly carried over into my every day life, multitasking while I was working, talking and listening.  I became really good at planning what I would do next to myself while others talked.  I was able to give all the necessary social cues to keep the conversation going with barely having to participate in it.

Everyone I know has nailed down the skill of multitasking.  All of us on our phones during a conference call, watching TV, and even driving!  Work stress has become the norm; pushing ourselves as far as we can, forgetting to even breathe or drink the proper amount of 2 liters of water per day.  I have had two different managers at two different jobs end up in the hospital due to it.

It wasn’t until I read The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz that I began to hear about the opposite of multitasking: Being in the now.  The fourth agreement is to give everything you do your best.  What does that mean, your best?  Who is the judge?  It means, giving your absolute full attention and heart to what you are doing at that moment.  If you are blow drying your hair, blow dry that hair with intention.  If you are listening, listen as if your life depends on it.  Give your best.  If your mind starts to wander, bring it back.  Focus.  Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.  Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.” ~ Miguel Ruiz 

The art of doing your best might be difficult for you.  It is different from task to task.  Some are easier to focus on than others, depending on your interest.  If we can remove our judgement and find the enjoyment in what we are doing, it becomes easier.  When we focus and give our full attention, enjoyment is the outcome.  It feels good to do your best.  You may notice a desire to cultivate more passion in my life.  Anxiety and worry are relieved when we give our best.  Passion is cultivated when you give your best.

Tips on How to Give your Best

  1. Be Mindful.  Whatever you are doing, whether it be writing, working, or dreaded tasks such as laundry and dishes, give your best.  Treat everything with intention.  There are no more mindless tasks.  Everything you do, be fully aware of each movement and focus on doing it the best you can.
  2. Let Go of your Thoughts.   Thoughts will start to bubble up as we become bored or drained.  Our job is when we notice that we have let our mind begin to wander, to continuously bring it back to what you are doing.  It takes practice to be aware of when our thoughts have wondered and to be able to let go of them.  We often get attached to a feeling or story in our minds; if it is that important, write it down and continue with your task.
  3. Have Fun and Inspire Others.  Use your focus and best to inspire others.  The work you produce will be above standard and people will be inspired from the quality of your work and your extreme focus and effort.  Use that to fuel a passion for doing your best.  See how good you can be at simply walking.  How can you do your best at listening?  Eating? Have fun with it.