It’s a cliche this time of year to talk about “Christmas presence”—i.e. giving the gift of time or attention instead of something bought in a store. But like many overused phrases, it’s a popular idea because it’s a good one, and this year I’m giving that gift to myself.
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 enter the busiest time of the year, you could also think of it as a sanity strategy for yourself. Many of us will spend this month managing our demanding lives by multitasking. As a result we’ll spend most of this season distracted, trying to do more but actually experiencing less.
This December I’m going to enjoy the present of being present for my life. Want to join me?