bal harbour blog

Sharon Salzberg Knows How to Work

Q&A
Sharon Salzberg's most recent book.

By Rima Suqi

Attention multitaskers: think you’re getting so much done, so much faster? Quite the opposite. On average, it takes you 50 percent longer to finish a task, and you make 50 percent more mistakes than your more focused counterparts. Do not despair, though. A new book by meditation guru Sharon Salzberg—”Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement and Peace” (Workman)—offers tips for multitasking rehab, as well as a plethora of other solutions for navigating an often tricky work environment.

I was surprised to read that people often get the same rush from multitasking as from gambling.
The great myth of our time is that multitasking will make us so much more effective and efficient, and that we’ll get so much more done. The reality, as studies show, is that we’re not doing things well and we’re not getting more done.

Is there rehab for multitasking?
Yes, it’s short moments many times. I like the term “un-tasking”—it may not be something we can do all the time, but sometimes, like when we’re on the phone, maybe just be on the phone and not check our email at the same time.

You also suggest “stealth meditations.” What is that?
Stealth meditations include things like when you’re walking from room to room at work, instead of texting at the same time as you’re walking or planning out a meeting in your head, maybe just walk and really experience everything along the way. Or notice how you’re holding something like a pencil or a cup. Sometimes we have so much tension going on that we don’t realize we have a death grip on these objects. It makes us even more stressed. If we realize those things, we can relax.

Email communication is a huge issue now and sometimes the source of major problems.
There’s a lot to be said for writing out the email and not pressing send right away—pausing and letting things sink in. In that pause, see if you can tune into your motivation or intention. What do I actually want to get or see happen out of this communication? Did I say it in the way that is likely to get me what I want?

Can you discuss the concept of “open awareness?”
It’s not being stuck in any one perspective and realizing that sometimes we can look at things from different angles. Psychologists tell us one of the most powerful things we can do is keep a gratitude journal—write down three things at night that you are grateful for. You can certainly apply that to the workday.

You also talk about surrender as a sign of strength, which sounds like a paradox. I think many people equate surrendering with losing a battle.
Sometimes, we just have to say, “I have done everything I can do, and now nature needs to take its course.” We can’t always fix everything right now. There are many moments of letting go.

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