One. Thing. At. A. Time.
Multi-tasking. In the world of job descriptions and interviews, the ability to multi-task is one of those "skills" most employers are looking for in their employees. Then, at WDS, I heard this: "Multitasking makes us slower, less accurate, less creative. We are faster and smarter when we single-task."
"What? But it's so efficient to multi-task?" I thought. To illustrate the point, Caroline Webb had us go through an exercise. She asked all 1,000 of us in the audience to say the alphabet, all together: A, B, C, D, E, F... We were in sync and sounded great. She then asked us to count, all together: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6... like a chorus, we shouted it out. Next, she asked us to say first letter, first number, second letter, second number... We started: A, 1, B, 2, C, ?!, ?!, ?!... It was ridiculously hard, and we were a mess, all of us. We were clearly a lot slower and less accurate when we had to multi-task vs. when we were single-tasking. Thank you, Caroline. Point taken.
Taking this lesson into the real world, I noticed a lot of things really quickly. My damn phone. No matter what I was doing, it was typically the one thing I used to multi-task, even when I didn't necessarily have a "task" to do. I'd be watching a show, and pick up my phone to start a game of Scrabble. I'd be walking Nessa, and I'd have my phone out looking at Facebook posts. I'd be waiting in line for coffee, and get my phone to see if any emails came in. I'd be sitting on the toilet, finding myself catching up on Snapchat. I'd literally be on the phone talking to someone on the other end while scrolling through Instagram. It was as if I couldn't have my mind focused on just one thing.
And was I really any more productive? No, not at all. I missed some important dialogue in the show I sat down to watch (yes, there is important dialogue even in shows like Bachelor in Paradise?!). I realized I was doing more standing than walking with Nessa. I could have potentially missed a great connection on coffee shop line and probably pissed off the cashier when I approached, head down and in my phone. The time I spent in the bathroom doubled as my feet went numb from sitting so long. And when I'd be looking at photos while on the phone, I just very obviously was not present in the conversations I was having.
I understand I'm giving my phone a hard time. It's not just the phone. Even for my day job, it happens when email pops up and I get distracted from a report I'm working on or I have a conference call meeting and zone out because I'm working on another task. Yes, I'm there on the phone but if I'm not fully present, what's the point? I'd get way more done if I just did one thing at a time, and I'd probably end up feeling more connected to people, and the tasks, in the process.
So, there's no happy ending or way to wrap this up in a way that feels done. It's just one of the challenges that I am consciously working on and reminding myself to be aware of every day. I'm not going to be able to never multi-task again and maybe there are some things that might even warrant multi-tasking. But, I think the better route for me would be to look at all of the tasks, prioritize, and then do each thing. One. Thing. At. A. Time.
On that note, from the man who wrote one of the most powerful books I've ever read (The Power of Now):
"Doing one thing at a time means to be total in what you do, to give it your complete attention. This is surrendered action - empowered action."
~ Eckhart Tolle
About the photo: After quitting my job at The Dinex Group in 2013, I decided to do something I had been thinking about for a while - a farm stay through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). I spent 10 days working on Greenwood Hill Farm in Upstate NY - learning how to feed and handle horses, ducks, turkeys, goats, chickens, chicken eggs and preparing vegetables and food for the market and for our own dinner table. I feel like the moments I spent driving around in the golf cart from horse feeding to duck feeding to picking up chicken eggs - I was in the moment. I was so very aware of every move I made to gather the horses, tie them up, put myself in the best position to feed so as to not get killed by a horse kick. I was doing one thing at a time, and I was present. I believe being around animals help me, and people in general, to do this - be in the moment. (Thank you, Nessa). Anyway, this was a photo I took on one of the farm mornings on that WWOOF experience. (Side note: if you haven't done WWOOF, I highly recommend checking it out... there are some farms that will even take families on for a stay!)