THE BLOG
09/03/2013 02:40 pm ET Updated Nov 03, 2013

3 Ways to Be More Efficient

It is the American way to get things done. Chop, chop, chop. So what I have to present to you may seem counterintuitive and a challenge to your corporate mindset and/or your lifestyle. In fact, when I present these concepts to my business clients when teaching mindfulness, I love to see them squirm in their seats. Yep, I can be a little wicked that way.

Therefore, whoop, whoop. I invite you to read below and see if these efficiency guidelines get you all balled up or if they actually make you breathe a little easier.

1. Cease and desist with multitasking.
Believe it or not, you cannot -- let me say this again -- you cannot do several things at once efficiently unless you are performing activities that involve different parts of the brain. At work, the majority of our tasks utilize the same areas: emailing, texting, talking on the phone, writing.

In his book The New Brain: How the Modern Age is Rewiring Your Mind, Richard Restak, M.D., describes the research of Joshua Rubinstein, who discovered the shift from one activity to the next can take up to seven-tenths of a second. This may seem like a small amount of time, but imagine how this adds up in a single day and also results in a depletion of accuracy as well as energy. According to Restak, multitasking is also physically taxing on our brain's frontal lobes, the areas of executive function, as they must continually "shift goals and activate new rules of operation."

Here's what I suggest to my clients. At work and at home insist on a no-multitasking mantra. Acknowledge it, accept it and live it. If you see Jane over there at her desk doing three things at once, stop thinking she is a powerhouse. Now see her as overworked, possibly making mistakes and stressed. Yes, it is a paradigm shifter. Help Jane see the light.

Also, imagine these other ways multitasking comes into play. At work -- if you are running a meeting and people are texting, they are not listening to you and they are not engaged. Basically you are just standing up there talking to yourself. In life -- if you are chatting on your cell phone and walking through the aisles at a store, you cannot truly pay attention to what you are doing. How many times have you witnessed someone at the grocery store on their phone while several people are behind them trying to get by or trying to maneuver the Jiffy peanut butter off the shelf around them?

And please note: you can continue to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time very efficiently. Well, maybe not, but I'm still impressed by that.

2. Slow down.
Going slower can actually get you there faster. I know, right? This statement gets people's nerves all jumbled up as they look at their over-committed schedules and ask me how they can go slower and still get everything done.

It's about breathing, taking breaks, noticing how your body is feeling as you go through your day, and giving yourself time to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings. Oh, that seems like another list, doesn't it? But doing this is actually simple by just allowing yourself a bit of time to reflect throughout the day.

Examples:
-- Notice when you are multitasking and take a second to breathe and reflect. Which task is more important? Do that one first and then complete the other second. When done, give yourself a moment to congratulate yourself on getting it done and doing it with more awareness and focus.
-- Allow yourself mental time to transition from one task to another. When you finish one task, close your eyes and breathe. Notice your body and relax. Then move forward.
-- Take a second to stop when you are feeling rushed. Be aware of your body and thoughts. If you even take one minute to completely let go of what you are doing and focus on your breath, that can be a huge game changer. Also, ask yourself why you are feeling rushed. Maybe there are some bigger issues that need to be addressed. That leads me to number three.

3. Recognize your thoughts and patterns about getting things done.
Let me share my personal story. I've been doing meditation and mindfulness work now for more than 14 years. I explain to my participants and clients truthfully that this practice has saved my life. I came busting out of the womb as a driven perfectionist type, and in my early 20s started having a multitude of physical issues, including borderline high-blood pressure. Now that I am in my 40s, I can't imagine how jacked up and literally screwed up I would be if I hadn't started practicing peace, acceptance and calmness.

Even to this day, I still really have to "work" with my personality as I move through all of its layers. In saying that, I became aware about two years ago of some very strong inner dialogue in my head. Basically, I realized this was the thought pattern that had carried me through my life: "I never have enough time." It was so intense to discover that these words expressed how I interacted with everything.

When I started hearing this so distinctly, it allowed me to understand why I always packed my day and could never feel like I completed things. It was the reason I had overworked myself when I was in school and in my advertising job.

Consequently, my new mantra is, "I get things done easily and calmly." And, yes, I still have to say it a lot to keep myself on track. But, that's okay. It takes time to change patterns. Especially the big ones.

So, I ask you, why are you driven? If you have a packed schedule, why? What is important to you in your life? Reflect, breathe and be honest with yourself. This is your life we are talking about.

More and more my "to do" list is about living and being happy versus just getting it done. I want to enjoy my doing as well as physically and mentally just feeling good. Life becomes more efficient, effective and rich when we do it with clarity and focus. Slowing down brings that richness. I so wish that for you -- for everyone.

For more by Eden Kozlowski, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.

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