No More Multitasking! / by Michelle Cowan

Can I effectively do two things at once? Multitasking sounds great, promising saved time and effort, but how well do I perform any project with my mind only half-devoted to it? My quality of work decreases even though the quantity rises. Therein lies the central downfall of multitasking for me. The more habitually I multitask, the more tasks I take on. So, fewer finished projects leave me satisfied, my stress increases as a result of having too many tasks to account for and remember, and I still don't have any extra time thanks to the additional duties I assume when in a multitasking modality.

Right now, I'm definitely in multitasking mode. I can't count the number of things I've accomplished this weekend while simultaneously doing something else. This behavior indicates something all too familiar in me. I am trying to avoid something, probably something that requires a bit of thought. The more things I can set my mind on, particularly if those things come in the form of a neat little checklist that I can obsessively reorganize in my head, the less likely it is that those unwanted thoughts will be able to fight through the crowd on the way to my conscious.

So now I sit, determined to do one thing and one thing only: write this blog. This is it. Sure, it would probably be better to sit and meditate, allowing those unrecognized thoughts and feelings to rise to the surface, but for now, simply writing is the best I can do. At least it's a step down on the frantic-o-meter from endless multitasking. I congratulate myself for that one achievement.

Even as I sit, though, I'm considering making a snack, going for a walk, watching a movie, calling someone. There are all sorts of things I can do. Can I allow myself to just sit? Will it work? Can I enjoy a leisurely Sunday without judging myself constantly?


Okay, I took a break and finished a string of one-thing-at-a-time activities. And I feel much more centered. The television was turned off, my mind was focused, and I even took a walk. I feel free and calm now. Doing one thing at a time reduces my perception of chaos. Things seem so much more harried when I'm trying to do them all at once. Thank goodness for calm.

I feel most productive when I let everything go and allow the chores that really need to be done rise to the surface. I can grab at things and make lists and feel accomplished, but I lose all sense of myself and my daily rhythm. Oftentimes, by exclusively following a to-do list, I miss what really needs to be done in the moment, or I feel guilty that I didn't finish my list if something unexpected comes up. When doing one thing at a time, my mind focuses.

Moreover, I now know what I was suppressing. I am disquieted by a certain relationship. In my recent sequence of activities, I talked to that person. Now, although some things remain unsaid, I feel more at peace leaving the situation as it is. Relationships never fit into my little box of to-dos. They teach me more and more how to go with the flow and live in the moment.

I don't like to multitask friendship. I enjoy being there for a friend and concentrating on what is happening right now, not what might be in the future. That is the best way for me to be authentic. When dealing with other people, it's always one step at a time.

I can take what I am learning from this slightly uneasy relationship and apply it to my private life. Right now is what matters. Obsessive planning for the future only complicates the few small steps I need to take right now. It feels good to have more peace.

But I have to admit, I'm starting to think about the few things left over to do today... I guess I'm always learning. Nevertheless, even if it only lasts a minute, I have peace right now, and right now is all I really have anyway.