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Don't let the patience run out

Large parts of our daily life is driven by notifications. When we see an email pop up at work, we drop what we are doing, answer it, and then get back to what we were doing. When we get a message on WhatsApp, we do the same. When we see that someone liked our status or commented on our picture, we go interact with that.

With notifications on, we are constantly saying to the world, "Go on then. Interrupt what I'm doing. I'm curious to see what you bring my way."

This behaviour indicates the underlying assumption that any notification / interruption that we receive is more important or urgent than what we are currently doing. Else, we wouldn't be drawn to them.

It is also true that we evaluate time spent in completing a task. In our minds, it takes less than a minute to read an email or check out a notification. While it takes an hour or more to engage in a more involved task (like writing a blog post). And if we are interrupted by a notification while we are in the middle of an engaged task, we tend to think it is alright to take out a few seconds to address the notification and get back to the task at hand without affecting the amount of time it takes to get it done.

But the context switch increases the time we take to complete the engaging task drastically.

While blocking notifications is one way of handling it (I do it), it isn't necessarily addressing the root cause. It is simply putting a block on the symptoms. Even if we have notifications blocked, we still have the tendency to open up the app / email and see what new things we have missed because of the blocked notifications.

The moment the task we are engaged in (even if it is watching a movie) becomes slightly less interesting, even for a few seconds, we tend to divert our attention to something else as it could potentially be more interesting - and we can get more interesting things done without missing out on anything.

So what it takes is a little patience to sit through the task we are engaged in and do it one task at a time.

Multi-tasking works when there is no context switching. Multi-tasking works when we are engaging different aspects of our attention on different tasks (like listening to a podcast while running).

But it doesn't work when there is context switching.

The one thing that meditation improves is our ability to do just one thing at a time with all our focus. Every time you are completely engaged in a single task and not distracted (internally by your thoughts or externally by notifications), you are meditating. 

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