In today’s world it is getting ever harder to focus on one thing at a time
By Patricia Baer
I recently stumbled across an article on National Single Tasking Day. With romance and Valentine’s Day still on my mind, my initial thought when reading the headline was that this was going to be a piece on some horribly awkward challenge to connect your unattached friends with other eligible folks by tasking them with a community activity.
Snarkily, I imagined the organizer’s website sharing the slogan, “It’s not just about dating. It’s about doing social good!” It turns out what the blurb actually described was a day set aside to take a break from attempting multiple tasks and indulge yourself by focusing on one “thing” at hand.
Like a lot of people, multitasking has become a way of life for me. It is not just something I do at the office, but now it is an enabler for my overloaded personal time. Instead of making a healthier choice of cutting back on my projects and to-do list, I assume I can squeeze it all in to my schedule due to my amazing skill of juggling pieces of several projects within the same hour.
The reality is I am a terrible multitasker. We all are, and research proves it. Trying to hop between multiple tasks has been shown to dilute focus and extend the time needed to complete projects.
I experienced an example of this the other weekend. I had decided to attack a furniture painting project in my basement. I was determined that it would be the weekend I stopped procrastinating and completed this long-delayed chore. What should have been a 90-minute activity ended up taking most of the afternoon.
It started with the idea that since I was in the basement anyway, I should do laundry too. This led to the thought that the washing machine was kind of dreary as background noise, and watching a movie on my laptop while I was down there would be much nicer. I am not sure which suffered more, the paint job or my ability to appreciate the film since neither had my full attention.
Sadly, I find films are getting harder to sit through, especially at the theater, not because of audience members who talk during the screening or unruly kids but because I am now accustomed to watching at home while doing something else at the same time. I have corrupted my favorite leisure activity with multitasking.
For me, anyway, it comes down to feeling guilty about focusing on just one task, and I guess that is why I used the word “indulge” earlier. I feel like a slacker if I am not making the most of my down time. But when you think about it, that attitude defeats the purpose of “down time,” which we all need.