Yes, You CAN Stop Multi-Tasking!

(photo courtesy of xololounge)

I am all for  simplicity and efficiency.

There are few things more satisfying than a smooth running plan or an idea that moves easily from inception to completion.

But when it comes to being an efficient smooth operator, complication is a buzz-kill.

Details can make you crazy.

Is this your modus operandi?

It’s Saturday morning and all week you’ve been keeping a mental list of the tasks you’re going to undertake during the weekend.  Resolutely, you begin to put them on paper.  Crap!  Every time you write one item down, you think of something else you’ve been meaning to do.

Suddenly, your list of six items has become 12.

No worries, you think; it will be easy enough to go to the dry cleaning location that is across from the grocery store instead of the one you usually go to.  And the supermarket has an ATM which eliminates driving to the bank.  Except, you might as well go to the bank because it’s only about a mile from the post office and you need to mail a package.

Since you’ll be close to the your car’s service center when you go to the post office, why not get your oil changed?  For that matter, you could pick up the groceries from that store just the other side of the car place.  Then if there’s enough time, you could swing by the office supply place for copy paper and a pen refill.

While you’re at it, you might as well stop in next door to see if your hair stylist can do your hair and maybe get a pedicure.

Are you exhausted yet?

It’s the weekend, for God’s sake, and you’re constructing complex navigational systems!

I’m one of those planners described above.  I’m one of those people born with the “while you’re at it” gene.

I used to think this kind of plan was a means to efficient productivity.  If I could do one thing while another was running in the background, I felt like a superstar.

The older I get, the more I realize I no longer want to be a superstar.  I’m too damn tired from the multi-tasking game.

I’m also realizing that a fast-paced, check-the-box, get-‘er-done operational style no longer works for me.

I much prefer doing one thing at a time.

The alternative to multi-tasking

I understand your argument for multi-tasking.  I really do.  I am a recovering Type-A personality and I relapse frequently.

But if you really, truly want to reconnect with your sanity, you can choose to stop multi-tasking.

I must warn you that the alternative is simple, but seldom easy, at least the first few times you try it.

Ready for the answer?

Okay here goes.

Instead of multi-tasking, do one thing at a time.

That’s it.

As I write this post, my mind tries to wander to an infinite number of places.  I’ve caught myself thinking about finding a grilled chicken recipe online, checking the Texas Rangers score, calling so-and-so and doing the laundry.

I may or may not do those things.  Here’s your takeaway:  As tempting as it might be to think through each of your to-do items to see how they can link together for seeming efficiency, DON”T DO IT!

Instead, focus on what you’re doing right now.  I am writing this post and I don’t know what I’ll do when I finish.

Train yourself to believe that the future is none of your business.

Whatever you’re doing in this mindful moment is all there is.  Once you’re finished, you can decide what to do next.  The key is to fully tune-in to now.

Try it, not just once, but several times this week.  Let me know if you feel more efficient than when multi-tasking.  Please post your thoughts in the comments section below.

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  1. Becky says:

    What a great post. Thank you for giving me permission to STOP multi-tasking. It’s a hard habit to break. In fact, I’ve always been proud of my multi-tasking abilities! What you wrote really resonated with me. I thought about all of the time I spend on the phone while quietly sending e-mails and texting. It occurred to me that doing that was keeping me from truly “B-ing” with the person on the other end of the phone. That practice now seems disrespectful. I am going to try my best to “B” a non-multi-tasker today. Each person, place or thing deserves my full attention and presence.

    • Beth says:

      Hi Becky,

      Yes, for many of us who work remotely, it seems prudent to “not waste time” while on conference calls. I’m guilty of emailing and texting too. When you think about it, it does seem disrespectful doesn’t it, not only to the person or people on the other end of the phone but also to you! You deserve slow-down time, time to focus and the energy that comes from being fully present to whatever is in front of you. Good luck with your non multi-tasking day!

  2. Steph says:

    Another beautiful article, Beth!

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