Self / 20.11.2015

The New Health Rules for happiness: Solo-task

By Roisin Dervish-O'Kane
Do one thing at a time for a happier, calmer, more creative you, says Dr Frank Lipman

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‘Must be a skilled and effective multitasker’ reads pretty much every job application, ever.

The ability to do many things at once is mandatory for success in 2015, but hours spent writing, emailing and scanning Instagram simultaneously for dinner ideas is wrecking our ability to focus. The good news is that there’s an easy way to mould your grey matter to concentrate.

What’s the deal?

‘The concept of solo-tasking came from the Buddhist philosophy of mindfulness and being present. In the West we haven’t developed the ability to control the mind yet,’ says Dr Frank Lipman, author of The New Health Rules (£14.99, Artisan). ‘We haven’t been trained – and we’re convinced that doing five or 10 things at once is a good thing.’

Read more: The New Health Rules – why happiness is key for health

Don’t think your boss will be on board with a ‘one-at-a-time’ please approach? Don’t worry, solo-tasking is something to do whenever you can fit it in.

‘Multitasking isn’t bad all the time, sometimes it’s necessary, but we need to teach people to direct their attention to one thing. So you can be focused when it matters – like being with your partner. You want to be present, not let your distracted mind wander all over the shop,’ he explains.

Read more: What happy couples do differently
 

How do we do it?

‘One nice way to quiet the chatter in your head is to give your whole focus to an everyday task. While doing the laundry, just do the laundry: listen to the sound of the water as it fills the washing machine, notice the smell of the detergent, feel the clothes in your hand,’ he suggests.

Think of it like meditating, without the 20-minutes of spare time or OM-ing. ‘It doesn’t take up any more time than it would when done with your mind darting every which way or your phone pressed to your ear — you don’t have to move in slow motion.’

‘One nice way to quiet the chatter in your head is to give your whole focus to an everyday task’

Give it a go. As well as a new appreciation for those crisp, cotton bed sheets, solo-tasking could help you out at work too; calmer minds have better, more creative thoughts.

‘Intentional awareness slows the mind, brings a feeling of calm, allowing insights to bubble up (one of which might be that it’s really satisfying and enjoyable to focus on one thing at a time),’ Lipman explains. ‘Take that to work and you’ll see a difference.’

Doctor’s orders.

Have you tried the whole mindfulness thing yet? Has it worked for you? Tweet and share your experiences with us @healthymag

Partially extracted from The New Health Rules by Frank Lipman, M.D. & Danielle Claro (Artisan, £14.99). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Gentl & Hyers.

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The New Health Rules for happiness: Solo-task
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The New Health Rules for happiness: Solo-task
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Doing too many things at once is wrecking our ability to focus. Dr Frank Lipman, author of The New Health Rules, shares his method for achieving real focus
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Healthy Magazine
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