Are you one of those people who take great pride in your ability to do several things at once?
Do you cook dinner, feed the dog, and talk on the phone all at the same time without sautéing the Alpo and giving Fido the hamburgers? Do you wipe the sink while you’re brushing your teeth and believe that you’ve sufficiently cleaned your bathroom? Do you pay your bills and simultaneously check your emails without overdrawing your account?
Do you believe that you’ve mastered the art of super-efficiency? Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but it’s time to get over yourself. Multi-tasking is out. Mono-tasking is in!
For many years now, the art of multi-tasking has been a bragging right. Once upon a time, in our super busy lives, when we might have been juggling a home, a marriage, a job, some children, and perhaps a few assorted pets, doing more than one thing at a time was a necessity. And when we got really good at it, we could put it on our resume. It was a virtue that was valued in the work place, as well as the supermarket.
And even if life has slowed down, apparently multi-tasking is a difficult habit to break. But break it we must, because now the experts are telling us a very different story. Multi-tasking doesn’t work. Even if you think it does, it doesn’t. It just causes you to screw up several things at once. So stop right now.
In fact, multi-tasking can be hazardous to your health! While you may get a high from thinking you’re a super-person, multi-tasking actually increases mental stress, causes more mistakes, ruins memory and concentration, and can lower your IQ. Who knew? This list is as scary as a drug commercial.
While it’s incredibly satisfying to click multiple tasks off your to-do list, for the sake of our mental health, we must retrain our brain. Going forward, we must re- learn how to mono-task, or uni-task, or to put it simply, do only one damn thing at a time.
So where do we begin this process? I’ve perused the current literature, and I’m happy to pass along some of the helpful suggestions I’ve found therein.
- Next time you go to the john, don’t take your cell phone so you can send an email. Just sit there and enjoy the movement; I mean the moment.
- If you’re driving your friend to the movies, have her sit in the back seat and not speak to you so you can fully concentrate of your driving. If you happen to be with your spouse, request that he ride in the trunk.
- Juggle only one ball. True, it’s no longer called juggling, but you can derive just as much satisfaction by playing catch with yourself.
- When you’re on the treadmill, don’t watch TV or listen to music. Instead, be mindful of just how bored you really are.
- Don’t walk and chew gum at the same time.
These are just some suggested starting points. I’m sure in your own daily life, you’ll discover many more instances where you can hone your singular focusing ability.
As much as I am grateful to the scientific community for saving me from myself, I’m also really pissed that they keep contradicting themselves. Perhaps they are the ones operating with divided attention. Take drugs for example. The industry develops a magic pill to relieve headaches, only to recall it down the road because it attracts fleas.
And it happens with foods all the time. One day you’re discouraged from eating eggs, only to find out a year or two later that you’re at risk for rickets. And I’m certainly not looking forward to the day that the experts inform me that kale causes toe nail fungus.
But I shall try to heed the latest recall, and take the multi-task cure. It won’t be easy. I’ll begin in a moment, right after I print this essay, while I tie my shoe lace, and pet the dog.