My Day as a Single-Tasker
We all know that the true value of our worth is in our ability to complete 60 tasks in a 24 hour period. I mean, look around you. How many things do you have going on while you read this? I proudly recall in undergrad many evenings sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace books open, scrawling notes, radio on in the back ground while the tv played on mute and the dogs brought me toys to tug. How in the hell did I graduate?!
Before you reconsider my worth as a credible health advocate let me just say I graduated Suma Cum Laude.
I’m not sure what exactly prompted this little experiment, perhaps it was staring at the ceiling one early am thinking “enough is enough!” Queen of the can’t-say-no-club, president of the I-can-take-on-another-project contingency, and always with my mother’s voice in my head letting me know that just because I think I’m a smarty pants doesn’t mean anyone else does.
This story actually starts with me flipping through one of twelve magazines on the coffee table that I am absolutely (never) going to read, this particular one was on Mindfulness. I’m a mindfulness “expert” so I buy all the books, mags, and articles. I wasn’t really invested since I was also watching the last episode of Fixer Upper (bye Chip & Joanna!), but an article on petitating caught my attention. Don’t laugh it had dogs, more on that next blog…
I noticed a small graphic with the simple statement Be Present in one corner. Why I latched on to this is beyond me, I tell my classes every day to be present. I coach clients to be present with food. I KNOW THIS! However, in this moment, at this juxtaposition of feeling overwhelmed and sinking into a total meltdown of “what am I doing with my life?” It hit me. I’m supposed to be doing what I love! Do I love what I am doing?
Turns out, I don’t think so. With all of the “have” to do’s, I lost sight of the “love” to do’s. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that life is not all sunshine and rainbows, and there has to be balance-it can’t all be fun and games! But sometimes the external influences can work their way into the mind and start to create an internal monolog that says if I’m not overly busy, then I’m not pulling my own weight. Of course, no good comes of this, and I end up overwhelmed, tired, and crabby.
So it begins….
In a 24-hour period I vowed to do only one thing at a time, be fully present, and invest my attention each time. I also set a few limits, like only 1 hour for an afternoon reading break, and completing all of my morning chores (with music) by a certain time, but other than a few guidelines I set into my day of presence- which turned into a day of presents! I still had duties to do: clients and classes, social media, projects, and I was going to do them with total focus.
I won’t go hour by hour, but I will give you the summary: turns out a day is very long. When you give all of your attention to a task it really allows you to experience every little bit. Mundane activities are more interesting, simple pleasures become true pleasures, and forgotten treasures are found. I took a little extra time on some tasks that I found were engaging, and a little less on tasks that were just boring. Some things you just need to get through, presence or not!
One thing that really peaked my interest was a typical interaction with Murphy. Every day at 6:00pm Murphy brings me his ball for a 15-minute session. It is literally the only time Murphy leaves his bed all day, and I have no idea how he knows it is 6pm. If I am not home, he will be waiting in his spot with his ball, letting me know that this is the best 15 minutes of his day. Normally I roll my eyes and tell Murph to hang on and load up on other tasks to do between tosses, but this was my day of being present. I must have tossed his ball 100 times and we went longer than the normal 15 minutes for sure, but I had lost track of how animated my little guy gets hunting for wayward throws, even trying to “throw” the ball back to me by flipping his head and launching the ball from his mouth. I can’t believe I was taking these precious minutes for granted!
Not everything was quite so spectacular, some things are no fun no matter what- I think I might continue to multi-task laundry and dishes. I actually snacked less, moved more, and ended the day feeling like I had such a great and productive day. I am pretty sure I accomplished at least the same amount of work if not more.
I totally recommend becoming more present. It doesn’t take away from duties, it makes for a more rich experience.
What did I learn? That I do a number of things that are time-sucks. Checking email 20 times a day, refreshing social media to see if I got any likes, running a full sink of water to wash 2 mugs! I also learned that I don’t want to be a multi-tasker. No matter how good I might be at it. It isn’t a badge of success, or a measure of my worth. It robs me of precious minutes of life. We live in very fast times, we are encouraged (especially as women) to embrace the need to be overwhelmed, our peers will mock us if we aren’t as busy as they are, jobs demand us to be expert “multi-taskers”. When did driving ourselves crazy become fashionable or a status symbol?
I don’t know how long it will last, but I am going to try “single-tasking” for as long as I can!