This Now. That Later.

Distractions plague our lives. We try to get through each day amid a flurry of text messages, email notifications, instant messenger notifications, SnapChats, interruptions by coworkers and family. Research shows that it takes “25 minutes on average to resume a task after being interrupted.”

This Now. That Later.

Many of us try to handle this flurry of activity by “multitasking” and getting better at responding to all of it. Like a professional tennis player at Wimbledon, we never stop moving. As soon as someone throws a message our way, we bat it away and ready ourselves for the next volley.

Computers can multitask. People can’t.

People who multitask make up 50% more errors and take 40% longer to complete a task than their single-tasking counterparts.

While I’ve known and believed for years in the power of focus at home and in work, I routinely fall for most of my life into the same distraction traps we all face. When we try to keep pace with distractions rather than focus on the one thing before us, we only accomplish higher levels of stress and a growing sense of frustration in our own abilities.

In the last month, I decided to meditate 20 minutes every morning before work. I had no grand plan to organize my life or combat my multitasking tendencies in doing so; I just wanted to see how I would feel afterward.

I’ve dabbled with integrating principles of Eastern philosophy into my everyday routine for the last 20 years without lasting success. While I’ve known the beneficial role meditation and activities like yoga can play in our lives, I never developed the discipline to pursue these activities long term. With motivation from my long-time source for stillness, ZenHabits.net, and after reading some very simple practical advice from Russell Simmons in his book, Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple, I felt very capable of creating this new daily meditation practice.

I’m approaching my 30th day of consecutive meditation, and I can’t imagine starting my day without the practice.

Each session is different, and I’m certainly no Zen master. I fidget. I check the timer at least twice each session. My mind wanders. Through it all, I keep breathing and with allow each wandering thought to move out of my mind as I refocus.

Today, my thoughts wandered to a large list of work tasks, a large list of fixit tasks around the home, feelings of spousal and parental inadequacy and anxiety about simply getting through my day. Somewhere in the breathing, as I exhaled and tried to release control over each thought, I hit on a mantra.

This Now. That Later.

It really helped. No matter what thought popped into my head, I told myself that this time, right now, is my time to breathe and be still. Later, I will focus on that thought or taks. And later, I will focus on something else. And later, there will be time for something else.

There’s always more to accomplish in a day than the time we have available to us. Single-tasking means that at the end of the day some things will remain undone. The same things will likely remain undone if you multitask, too. You’ll just feel less peaceful and about the few things you did accomplish.

Trying to do everything all at once accomplishes nothing more than increasing your stress levels and negatively impacting your relationships and peace of mind.

This Now. That Later.

Choose what’s important right now in this moment.

Do that, and then choose what’s important next.