At the start of June I decided to try taking one month off from multitasking. This was inspired by a teaching retreat where I had: no TV, no cell reception and didn’t drive. On the drive home my phone rang and I tried to answer it. The loss of control of my truck was quickly recovered, but it shook me. The realization of how practiced and “normal” multitasking had been for me prior to the retreat, and how overwhelming it was after such a short break prompted me to try a longer pause.
Taking one month, to do one thing at a time. This meant that my time eating was spent eating, not talking on the phone or watching TV. Drive time was spent driving, no eating or talking on the phone. If the phone rang I would pull over to talk. When talking with a friend I would avoid checking and replying to texts/Facebook and other virtual distractions.
Naturally, there were exceptions: if eating with someone we would of course talk; when driving music could play and I could drink water or coffee. I could watch a movie and eat popcorn. The first few days were easiest, the newness of the practice made it stand out in my awareness. The fourth day I busted myself repeatedly, it took several days to break certain habits, like eating in front of the TV.
I spent 2 weeks of this month in New York City. At first I thought it would be extra challenging to single-task while in the big city. The main challenge was to not talk on the phone while walking. Otherwise it was even easier. It really helped to be staying in the peaceful environs of the ashram with no TV in sight.
The results of my month of single-tasking:
- I watch much less TV, and my tolerance for crappy shows has decreased to nil. This is a very good thing for me. It means that I spend more time reading or working on various projects.
- When I am out with friends I am more present and connected. I do remember that for most of my life I never checked my phone for texts. I even turn the thing off during meals with friends.
- I sleep better. I wasn’t expecting this benefit. I don’t know why this is but bedtime comes earlier and I sleep more hours. Yay!
- I have more skill at completing my projects. When I dive in to working I have more mojo and better focus.
At the end of the month I know that parts of single tasking will be integrated into my life. But I am looking forward to watching cartoons with my Saturday breakfast.
2 July 2012