Feb 22 is Single Tasking Day! (…whodda thought, right?) We’ve conditioned ourselves as a society of multi-taskers out of necessity, just to attempt to feel like we’re remotely on top of things.
Did you know that only a very small percentage of human beings CAN actually multi-task…which is doing more than one thing simultaneously? For the vast majority of us, myself included, we are biologically unable to multi-task. We just toggle back and forth so quickly that it seems like we’re doing so…when in actuality we’re just performing lots of tasks half-assed, pardon my language. When we do this for long enough, we end up burnt out, exhausted, and lying on the couch at the end of the day, unable to complete a sentence, finding ourselves numbing out on Netflix or social media with a glass of wine. (I know this spiral all too well.) Computers are made to multi-task, humans are not. Single-tasking helps us make less mistakes, prevents us from having to do things over because of carelessness, and brings us into alignment with how we truly aspire to show up to our life.
Try one, or more, of these and see how it may change your experience and relationship with multi-tasking:
Do one thing really well today, with your undivided attention. I’m not sure where or who I got this from, but it’s really helped me. I gather the things on my to-do list that take 5 minutes or less and do them first. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. (I have a reminder list on my phone calendar that seems never-ending. It’s a lovely feeling swiping right to knock those babies off!) Then I prioritize projects that will take longer and more brain power and tackle them next. This way, I get to enjoy that initial feeling of accomplishment (no matter how fleeting) before I get into the weeds of the more complex and labor-intensive jobs. When I’m focused and aware of what I’m doing as I’m doing it, life feels a bit more spacious, not as time-crunched and frenetic.
Silence your phone and turn it FACE DOWN. I’ve noticed even when my phone is silenced, I still get distracted by the texts and calendar notifications that pop up in my peripheral vision. I notice I can focus for longer periods of time when my phone screen is not in my line of sight.
Set alarms for yourself. I set an alarm for 5-10 minutes before my next meeting so I can fully be immersed in whatever I’m doing at the time. This way I can trust I won’t miss the appointment (which I have so much anxiety about!) or distort my clarity by constantly glancing at the clock.
My adult paint-by-number project!
Do something you enjoy with no agenda. Pull out a creative writing project, your journal, a painting, craft, a hobby of yours that requires nothing from you but to be present with exactly what you’re doing. It doesn’t require you to produce something or “do a good job” or be perfect at it, whatever that may mean for you. It serves your aspiration to be wakeful to THIS moment, which remember, is the ONLY moment we have.
Go for a walk by yourself with no music, podcasts or audiobooks. Just you and nature. It’s quite amazing what you notice when you’re not distracted by piling on “more doing” I call it. When you’re on a walk, just walk – easier said than done. Feel your body move through space, feel the force of gravity against your feet, breath coming and going, your heart beating. Notice the texture of the sky, color of the ground, trees, birds, sounds, scents. Allow the senses to become vibrant and in the forefront of your experience, and see if it’s possible to let your thinking ABOUT the experience be in the background…liking or disliking, wanting or not wanting, commenting, planning, pre-living the future and re-living the past, documenting, re-hashing…this is all just more thinking and another layer you’re adding to your experience. Think: being and feeling versus doing and thinking.
Eat your lunch away from your work area – just for today. This is simple, yet NOT easy. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally gotten myself to sit at my kitchen island and just eat my lunch. No phone, no reading, no working while eating. I find I taste my food more because I slow down a bit and I’m not scrounging around for more things to eat afterward. Plus, it’s a nice break getting away from staring at my computer screen.
Most importantly, make this fun. It should be enjoyable and a way to get OUT of your head and INTO your life, not one more thing you have to put on your to-do list. I feel way more productive when I do less with more quality and preciseness than getting lots done with little to no awareness. I find I make far less mistakes as well. Happy single-tasking!