I must admit, I have squirrel disease. This shows up when I’m working on a task and suddenly I’m distracted. Better yet, not only am I distracted, but I often wander around looking for someone else to distract. It’s like shouting “Hey look, a squirrel!” to all the other puppies in the backyard. Soon we’re all running around barking and we barely remember what we were supposed to be doing.
Many of us like to multitask—like driving and eating, texting in meetings, or playing Angry Birds on our phones when we are supposed to be listening to our spouse. Multitasking is just our way of looking for squirrels instead of focusing on one thing at a time. Research shows our performance is always worse when we multitask—don’t believe your kids when they say they can watch TV and study, because they are probably missing 50% of what’s playing and 99% of what they should be studying.
We often multitask because we don’t like what we are supposed to focus on , or aren’t committed to it, or it’s difficult, or there’s something way more interesting to do. Our mind slips away and suddenly we are barking at trees.
One treatment for squirrel disease—other than always doing really compelling and fun things—is practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is the art of paying attention , of refocusing our minds when our minds decide to go out for a run. The more we practice refocusing—pulling our eyes away from the TV and looking at our book, putting our phones in our pockets, and leaving those delicious smelling fries in the bag in order to keep our eyes on the road—the better we get at focusing. We build muscles in our brain that help us focus faster, more consistently, and more easily. In this way, mindfulness helps us be slightly less squirrel mad.
Hey look, a …! No, wait. Let me finish this blog first.