Is Mindfulness Simply Not Multitasking?

There are words and terms being thrown around, that originally had different meanings and usage. Sometimes we do not have knowledge about words and phrases, and in order to not draw attention to our lack of knowledge, we go along with discussions, as if we know.

For a period of time, I referred to mindfulness as being single minded focused. Recently while researching how to become more mindful, I learned the depth of what mindfulness is. I apologize for possibly adding to the confusion for some. Let us get clear on what is multitasking and what is being mindful. They are not synonymous.

Originally the term multitasking was used to describe the function of computers. Somewhere around 1966, in order to explain how a computer functioned, the word multitasking was used. It described that a computer could perform more than one task at a time.  Shortly thereafter a leap was made to describe when a person was doing more than one thing at a time.

The term multitasking, when applied to people, is actually a myth. The human brain is unable to perform more than one high level function at one time. High level function is described as something that involves thinking and reasoning. You can breathe and your heart can pump blood at the same time, as that is a low level brain function. (

Now we are going to look into what mindfulness is.  There are many definitions, yet a simple one is: “The willingness to bring the spaciousness and clarity of awareness back over and over again to whatever is going on-even as we feel we are being pulled in a thousand different directions.” -Jon Kabat-Zinn

Here is what that might look like in your dental practice. Whenever you hold a Team Meeting, as that as a courtesy to each other, that active listening is practiced by everyone. This allows for only one conversation at a time. There are no side comments or conversations. It takes practice. I like this at the dinner table when we have more than three people present. Sometimes people get frustrated. When that happens, remind everyone, that what is being said by any one person is important for all to hear.

mindfulness, multitasking, dentist personal developement

Look for ways that bring you into the present moment.

That is one simple way to practice mindfulness. Another is through meditation. We don’t judge our thoughts, yet we make an attempt to focus one thought, without wandering. We focus on one word, I use a couple of different words, yet only one at a time during meditation. When I find myself thinking about something besides my word, I bring my thoughts back to my word. I don’t judge myself or my ability to stay focused on my word.

There are many physical and emotional benefits to practicing mindfulness, lowered blood pressure, increased immune system, and reduce inflammatory responses to stress.

An informal practice of mindfulness means we choose to pay attention, on purpose, to what’s occurring in the present moment. The reason this is of benefit to the dentist, is that it keeps our thoughts from running away from us to the “what ifs”, and the anxiety of possible future occurrences.  Just as meditation takes practice, and we never really “arrive”, paying attention to our thoughts in the present moment takes practice.

As you can see by the explanations, mindfulness is more than just doing one thing at a time. Multitasking really doesn’t exist in humans, when it comes to thinking and doing. We welcome comments of how you practice these within your life and practice. Also, the best way to implement is in the doing, not in waiting to be perfect.

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