Back to Reality: Mindfulness vs. Multitasking

by Jamila Willis

It's September again. I'm back in the office, home from my summer vacation in Portugal and Switzerland, and back to the realities of my life: deadlines and emails and meetings.

My natural reaction to the obligations September brings is to multitask. But, earlier this year, I promised myself to multitask less - it interrupts my focus and takes me out of the moment. I was reminded of how ineffective multitasking can be this morning at the gym when I tried to take an app-based French lesson, respond to emails and create a playlist while running. Nothing was done effectively and I almost tripped myself in the process. 

Incorporating travel into life can be difficult. Everyone has a busy schedule, a demanding job, a life that needs tending to. I used to think that the only way to take vacation was to be constantly available and to work while away. Then I realized that I wasn't productive, producing quality work or enjoying my vacation. So, really, what was the point? 

Estoril Beach

Of course on this vacation, the office contacted me. But this time, I was honest with myself and everyone else, both before and during my vacation, about how much availability I had and when assignments could be expected. I left few projects open and gave instructions to my assistant on where to find everything. So instead of working throughout my vacation, I worked for a few hours after dinner on one day, which coincided with the downtime of my travel companions and local friends. I wanted to respect their time as well as my own. 

Otherwise, I got back to the business of being away. Being present on my vacation meant, for me, taking time away from the details and distractions of my daily life; taking long walks, long drives and deep breaths; taking moments to reflect and admire; and taking a true break from work. This vacation was successful - rejuvenating and inspiring - and now...back to work.