A life of single-tasking

Zen teaches us to never multitask, always focus on just one thing at a time.

We now have scientific evidence that multitasking doesn’t even exist. The brain cannot focus on more than one thing, so rather than multitasking we are actually “switch-tasking,” swapping the contents of our minds in and out at a rapid pace.

This defeats our concentration and focus, and it can reduce our efficiency by up to 40%.

And forget seeing the forest for the trees or the glass that’s half full—people who are busy doing two things at once don’t even see obvious things right in front of them, according to a study from Western Washington University. Specifically, 75% of college students who walked across a campus square while talking on their cell phones did not notice a clown riding a unicycle nearby. The researchers call this “inattentional blindness,” saying that even though the cell-phone talkers were technically looking at their surroundings, none of it was actually registering in their brains.

Plus, multitasking has been shown to lower your IQ and may be detrimental to other areas of your life. Understand how your brain processes information, and proactively take advantage of your peaks of alertness, not abuse them or work against them.

Meditation, in particular zazen, can point you in the direction of single-tasking again and provide your brain with more efficiency — and your life with greater happiness.