Sunday, June 20, 2010

One Bite at a Time

When I was in school, a teacher said something that stuck with me. She said that when we sit down with a plate of food, we don't feel overwhelmed with thoughts like, "How am I going to fit all this food in my mouth?" After all, we don't put all that food in our mouth at once. We take it one bite at a time.

My month of attempting to uni-task is well underway, with mixed results. I have learned that I like flitting from one thing to the next. I play a game, for instance, where I straighten up three things from one room and then go to the next and the next and so on...making housework more of a sporting event than a chore. It makes it fun for me. Is that multi-tasking? It seems more like rapid succession bite sized uni-tasking. But one could make a good argument either way.

This month, I have spent quite a bit of time sorting, sifting and getting rid of stuff I don't need. But I am doing it in the same manner that I eat spaghetti. I separate a little bit from the mound so that I can twirl it neatly on my fork. Overwhelming when you look at it as a whole, more manageable when you do only one little bit at a time.

Wishing you balance,


Friday, June 4, 2010

The Uni-task Challenge

Week One.

It hasn't been a full week. I am as bad at counting days as I am at uni-tasking. If I was following how-to instructions for these last few weeks, this is what they would say.

1. Read cool article on multitasking
2. Decide that you need to copy the author and uni-task for a whole month.
3. Declare this intention to the world via Facebook and blog.
4. Wait a week to access and indulge your multi-tasking habits.
5. Start uni-tasking.
6. Fail miserably.

It wasn't all that bad really. This week, I stopped eating breakfast while working on the computer and I stopped drinking coffee while on the computer as well. I also stopped drinking coffee altogether because without the computer, drinking coffee felt unbearably slow and boring. I found myself more engaged in conversation; my mind wondered less. I also found myself picking up on when other people were multi-tasking when I spoke with them on the phone, or when I got e-mails that seemed rushed and full of errors.  And that made me feel a bit annoyed.  I wanted to chide them for multi-tasking and tell them that there was a better way.  "Uni-tasking is the new multi-tasking," I thought, as I told them off in my mind, "Just look at me.  I will show you how it's done."

Yes.  Just look at me.  Look at me talking on the phone and driving.   My big fail of the week was when I was super late bringing my son to work because the usual road was closed and I got way lost and picked up my cell phone to call for directions while I was driving!!!  Talking on the phone and driving has never even been one of my habits.  I recognize that I am not good at it, so I rarely do it.  This, however, felt like an emergency.  Looking back I realize that it really wasn't.  It would have taken a minute to pull over and have the conversation.

Multi-tasking is culturally acceptable though- it makes it all the easier to choose do it.  I remember feeling extremely guilty the first few times I answered the cell phone when I was driving.  I also recall feeling like I was doing something wrong the first few times I kept working at the computer when my child was talking to me.  If other people felt guilty too, they feel guilty no more because you see people doing that kind of thing all the time.  What I have observed most prevalently as I go about my day to day is texting.  You see people texting when they are shopping, texting at work, texting while walking down the sidewalk with their children.  I wonder about the message being sent to these kids.  "Typing out things with my thumbs is more important than my being present with you."  Imagine being a child and getting a steady stream of that.  I was watching a movie with my son the other night.  The movie was playing on my laptop.  I could hear the happy sound of e-mails coming in.  It was torture for me to not pick up the laptop, pause the movie and check my e-mail.  I had an unsettled feeling.  An itch I couldn't scratch.  I waited it out and the urge diminished but it didn't fully go away.  When the movie was over, I immediately checked my e-mail.  None of the messages were urgent.  None even needed a response.

This week has been more of a challenge than I expected.   And although I have had some success, I can't say that it has been enjoyable.  After all, this is an addiction.   Multi-tasking has become my modus operandus.  This experiment in changing this has required a certain vigilance.  My mind has had to intervene to circumvent a mindless impulse to do the usual things, requiring a parental voice to go off in my head and say no.  One thing at a time.  

I won't give up though.  I think this is important stuff.  So I will take it...

One day at a time.

Wishing you balance,