repost: unitasking

Do you ever have to make the same goal several years in a row because you don’t make much progress on it, and because the circus of websites on your screen and worries on your mind seem to multiply each year, and because the entire Western world seems determined to destroy your every attempt at focus and concentration?

No? Oh. Ok. Never mind.

I live my life as a multitasker. Some of it’s harmless, like paying bills while watching a favorite movie (I’ve seen “Clue” so many times I don’t even need to look up at the screen to know what’s going on) or dusting my bookshelves while talking on the phone.

But much of it’s not so positive. I routinely open six or seven web sites at a time (some of my nine email accounts, a few blogs, Twitter) and waste huge chunks of time flicking from one to the next instead of doing real work. Or I’ll start an email only to be distracted by a flash of brilliance (very occasionally) on a current project and will leave the note half-finished while I chase the next thought. I’ll start to vacuum the house only to be distracted by dishes in the sink, which I’ll start to load into the dishwasher before noticing the pile of mail on the counter and remembering I should pay the water bill, which takes me back to the computer for three very important minutes reading a Facebook quiz about the girl who sat behind me in 7th grade.

In many ways, this multitasking reveals a lack of discipline. And while it affects my productivity to some extent, it also affects my personality.

Constant shifts of attention, and the constant re-focusing required to finally finish things, leave my brain and spirit more weary than simply focusing on one project for an hour or two. I find myself chronically restless and scattered.

So I’m slowly and painfully moving toward unitasking—doing one thing, doing it well, then moving to the next. This pic provides my inspiration, although I check email every hour to avoid the “I’m just calling to leave a message to see if you got my email message about my phone message” craziness.

(A public service announcement: don’t be that person.)

This is less a resolution than a lifestyle shift. As we ramp back up to real life today, you could also think of it as a sanity strategy. Many of us will spend this month managing our demanding lives by multitasking. As a result we’ll spend most of it distracted, trying to do more but actually experiencing less.

This year I’m going to enjoy the present of being present for my life. Want to join me?

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