The other day I watched a morning news show which featured a singer/songwriter at the end of their programming (at 7:30 am).  Any musician’s favorite gig, I’m sure.  As she sang her second song, enumerating her many blessings and sending that blessing onto her listener, I noticed that the news headlines were still scrolling along the bottom of the screen.  “man beats girlfriend to death and hides her body in his car”  “16 year-old football players dies after tragic accident in his own home while using exercise equipment”  The juxtaposition surprised and distracted me, to the point that I was no longer doing  what I intended to do (listen to the song) or what they wanted me to do (be titillated by the headlines).  None of the words I was seeing or hearing added up to meaning.  It was just a mess of information.

Since switching away from the iPhone, I’ve struggled to let go of the convenience it offered.  Found myself frustrated that I don’t have immediate access to information or the ability to satisfy my curiosity through Wikipedia at a moment’s notice.  But mostly, I find myself bored out of my mind!  Every little gap in activity now comes with a feeling of antsy-ness.  The silence is deafening.  I realize now that I was occupying every moment of downtime with that handy gadget.  I fit perfectly into a society that projects a song, news headlines and network ads simultaneously on one screen.

 

Banjo with my stack of half-read books

 

I began to look around at my supposedly simplified life and notice a glaring pattern: many tasks in progress, few finished.  We live in a half-moved-into apartment, have a half-finished album with no band name, and I try to sleep at night next to an active volcano of half-read books.

One of my favorite recently-found blogs, Zen Habits, shared single-tasking as one of the most important ways to simplify your life.

“Instead of multi-tasking, do one thing at a time. Remove all distractions, resist any urge to check email or do some other habitual task like that while you’re doing the task at hand. Stick to that one task, until you’re done. It’ll make a huge difference in both your stress level and your productivity.”

I believe it, but oh, how difficult it is to even finish a short blog entry without choosing to change my train of thought rather than push through it.  Much has been made of the change in Americans’ attention spans, and I am most definitely a supportive piece of data for its shrinking.

Single-tasking.  It sounds challenging, but also a little bit like vacation.  It will be difficult to resist the temptation to feel guilty for moving a bit more slowly, but I expect that as I master the skill, my productivity will flourish.

I would love to hear your opinions on this issue, as well.  Am I being silly?  Is it actually a good thing to have something cooking on every burner?  Does it contribute to stagnation or is that in my imagination?  My gut says stagnation, but we’ll see.  So begins my experiment in single-tasking.  Brief updates to follow.

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