What Ayurveda Tells Us About Multitasking
In today’s world, multitasking often seems like a natural part of life: we listen to podcasts while we ride the train, put away the laundry while we watch television or read a book while sipping a cup of tea. Especially given the increasing accessibility and capacities of technology, it has become increasingly hard for people to go about their daily life without multitasking; paying full attention to a task may often leave us feeling antsy and easily distracted. While the types of multitasking listed above tend to be harmless, especially because at least one of the tasks often doesn't require much mental engagement, multitasking can also harm our ability to concentrate and carry out tasks effectively. If you’re scrolling through social media while trying to listen to a lecture, for example, you’re unlikely to retain much of the information relayed in the lecture.
As research has shown, American youth spend about 7.5 hours each day using forms of digital media, and about 29% of that time is spent multitasking—to often detrimental effect. As one study demonstrated, those with heavy media usage have poorer short-term and long-term memory than those with low media usage. Other research has also suggested that multitasking increases the amount of time it takes to complete a task while also decreasing our efficiency and ability to complete it without error. As you can see, multitasking—especially when it involves mentally-stimulating tasks—is not the time-saving mechanism we think it is. Instead, it worsens our ability to concentrate and retain information.
Ayurvedic wisdom also backs up these findings. When we multitask, we disrupt Vata, which governs movement and flow. By refusing to allow our minds to concentrate on one task at a time, we constantly disrupt the flow of our attention. When Vata is out of balance, we feel anxious, scatterbrained, overstimulated and have difficulty sleeping, among other symptoms. Ayurveda emphasizes paying singular, mindful attention to important tasks (and yes, this includes eating). According to Ayurveda, we cannot engage in two mindful tasks at once; for example, we can’t drive and talk on the phone at the same time—since both of these tasks require our mental attention, doing so increases the risk of getting into an accident. As Dr. Sharmistha Dattagupta tells Vogue, “Too much thinking takes away concentration.”
So how does Ayurveda recommend we increase our attention and concentration? Here are a few for combating multitasking by improving focus and increasing mindfulness in everyday life.
Meditation is a powerful Ayurvedic tool for sharpening mindfulness and training the brain to free itself from distraction. Especially for those who haven’t tried out meditation before, a simple meditative practice can start off with just 20 minutes of quiet breathing each morning. As you continue to practice meditating, you’ll find that you feel increasingly grounded, rejuvenated and focused. For more information on meditation and how to establish a regular meditation practice, check out our blogs here and here.
Take an ashwagandha supplement
Ashwagandha is a touted Ayurvedic adaptogen in the wellness world, and for good reason—as research has shown, this ancient herb’s powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties enable it to combat stress and anxiety, promote memory and intellect and even combat neurodegeneration. Ashwagandha also boosts energy levels, reduces inflammation and promotes overall happiness and contentment.
One way to incorporate the mind-enhancing benefits of this Ayurvedic superstar into your daily routine is by taking an ashwagandha supplement. Our Deep De-Stress Herbal Supplement is a good place to start; simply take one capsule morning or night, before or after your meal, to experience ashwagandha’s transformative effects.
Spend time away from electronics
To combat the sense of distractedness and lack of mental focus that results from multitasking, try to be mindful about regulating your electronics usage. As research has shown, too much screen exposure before bedtime can interfere with our circadian rhythms and disrupt the quality of our sleep. Another study suggests that technology usage disrupts learning during class time. If you feel that you’ve had a little too much screen time and your concentration is waning as a result, take some time to exercise, read a book, journal or meditate—in short, spend time devoting your energy to a single task outside of the digital world.
Get regular sleep
High-quality sleep is crucial to both our physical well-being and our cognitive health. As such, it’s crucial to ensure that you’re getting a sufficient amount of sleep each night to improve memory and focus and to feel rejuvenated enough to tackle tasks mindfully—without multitasking. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to how to get better sleep, or how many hours to sleep; each dosha has different sleep tendencies. Vata, for example, might struggle with light or disrupted sleep and should take steps toward promoting restful sleep for longer durations. Kapha, on the other hand, tends to struggle with oversleeping, and should practice regulating their sleep schedule and getting up earlier as a result. For more information on how to get better sleep according to your dosha, check out our blog on the topic here.
These are just a few Ayurveda-informed suggestions for improving focus and combating multitasking. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to approach your tasks mindfully and to avoid engaging in two mindful tasks at once. By working toward building focus and attention, you’ll complete your tasks more smoothly and effectively. Best of all, when you avoid multitasking and devote time and care to your tasks, you’ll produce results you can truly be proud of.