Mindfullness and multi-tasking

I am currently back to working on classical guitar technique and learning sight-reading, which means playing directly from written music without memorising.

It is quite a challenge as the exercises are quite boring, in a way that meditation is boring.

You spend a couple of minutes totally focused playing random notes from the sheet of music, and if at any moment your mind wonders you lose it.

It is an exercise in focus.

I noticed that doing this has affected my focus during other activities.

I have dead time during my work as a teacher where students are busy for 10-20 minutes, during which I try to find some other activity like reading an article.

But it is a sort of multi-tasking and I am fully aware how bad this sort of thing is in my students.

It takes them ages to bring their focus back to class activities if they get distracted with their phone.

What I noticed since doing the sight reading exercises is that I do not feel the pressure to fill in the dead time in my class.

I am just happy just doing nothing but still being present during the lesson, occasionally checking on the students.

I think that the sight reading and other technique activities on the guitar are improving my focus generally and this is crossing over to other activities.

I also think that this works in the opposite direction where you think that multi-tasking is harmless but it actually makes it harder to focus on activities where focus is necessary.

The lack of the ability to give the proper sustained attention to a single task is really the scourge of our modern era.

We are constantly distracted and multi-tasking, thinking that this is harmless and that when we need to focus attention we will be able to do it on demand.

But we are wrong.

Mental focus is something that crosses over, so that if we exercise it in one domain it increases in other domains, but if we start multi-tasking, this then weakens our ability to focus in other domains as well.

I regularly see women at milongas distracted by various things—chit chat, phones, people dancing, etc.—and I typically find that once they are on the dancing floor their dancing is all over the place.

People who regularly multi-task are not able to switch on that focus on demand where it is needed.

But in tango you need focus.

I am very aware when I am dancing and my focus is not there, and I often go back and analyse why it was not there.

For example, perhaps I adopted the policy of chatting with people because I am bored, or to try to get a dance.

All such strategies leave you scattered and even if they work and you do get a dance this way you find that, after all, it was not really worth it.