About an hour ago, I had what felt like 50 things (books, computer, phone, pens, bottle of water, headphones and more) all spread out on the table in front of me and I needed to get all of them into my bag because my bus was coming in a few minutes. When I thought of what to begin with packing first, it did my head in. But I just had to start somewhere. That’s kind of what life’s like. The bag is life. The books, computer, pens and more are your projects, errands and things you need/want to get done, and catching the bus = getting those things done. You try to cram all things in to the bag at once, you’re definitely going to miss the bus, and you’ll have even messier pile of crap to deal with.
In Rapt, a book by Winifred Gallagher, she quotes cognitive scientist David Meyer: ‘Einstein didn’t invent the theory of relativity while he was multitasking at the Swiss patent office.’¹
The way to get things done is to do one at a time, and not see your to-do list as a pile of things, but a number of individual tasks.
These are the ways I’m currently experimenting with multi-tasking’s much more successful cousin, Uni-tasking:
• Only having one tab in my browser open at a time. Like a lot of people, I’ll have my email open, 3 articles I’m simultaneously reading, a tab with something else I’ve got to take care open too… No more. I’m going to try just using one at a time.
• Total silence while writing and reading (this works best for me, but isn’t for everybody)
• No listening to podcasts or anything else while writing to friends I like to chat with (for enjoyment’s sake. Doing this is something I enjoy, I want to be totally involved in it and nothing else.)
• I told my wife, that when she’s talking, I will pay full attention to her, no matter if it’s a boring subject (I talk about boring things too), but when I’m chatting with my friends, I would like her to be silent.
• I never take my phone or anything else with me when I walk my dog, Chunky. This is mostly to be fully present with him. Walking him and throwing the ball for him 1634 times a day gives me a lot of joy so I want to maximise that joy.
• When reading I do my best to focus entirely on the book, with no fidgeting, and no picking of my nails (This is something I want to get over but I’m struggling to. But I frequently remind myself that if Elon Musk can figure out how to build a rocket and then recite every single part on it off the top of his head, then surely I can master not picking my nails.
• If I’m at home, this is how I talk on the phone:
Sometimes while talking I get distracted and go to look at things online. So…
Step 1) Get sleep eye mask.
Step 2) Uni-tasking success.
Okay, I want to look at something else online now, so bye bye.
¹Taken from The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday