The Great Single Task Experiment

The phone vibrated against my low back and immediately panic waves shot through my body. With a lunchtime lull in my schedule, I went for a bike ride, carrying my phone in case of a mechanical failure sent me desperately searching for a friend or family member to give me a ride home and listen to me whine. But the vibration meant someone was calling me. And people rarely, if ever, call me just to chat. I don’t receive many social phone calls, usually only ones related to various forms of work and family. So here my phone was, vibrating in the back pocket of my bike jersey, signifying to me that something (possibly) crucial needed my attention while I was out on my bike.

I took a deep breath and assessed the situation. I was about 15 minutes from being home and done with my ride. What can’t wait for 15 minutes? I gave myself permission to complete the task at hand — my workout. I would deal with the phone calls, emails, Facebook posts, etc. later. There is plenty of time to do everything I want to do.

And this, my friends, is a radical thought regarding time. Because we are taught how precious it is, hear people rant about how they never have enough of it and are cautioned against wasting it. This line of thinking morphs into ideas of priorities and sacrifices. We can’t do it all, we’re told. And hence, we get frustrated, feeling as if we have to choose between things, feeling tied to obligations, feeling stuck.

So I’ve decided to try a new line of thinking. I now choose to think of time as an infinite resource. And to experiment with this idea, I’m giving up most of my multi-tasking this week. Some research has shown that single-tasking is actually more productive and that multi-tasking can be dangerous. This is why, after all, states create laws against things like texting while driving. (And although this is an illegal practice in New York State, the hardest thing in my first day of single-tasking was NOT to check my smart phone at red lights.)

My daily reminder to create my own experience

Granted I listen to NPR while making dinner or look up information as I write a story which might break the rules of single-tasking. But wait! This is MY experiment. I get to make the rules and change them as I see fit. In fact, it doesn’t really matter what the “rules” are. Here is my purpose: To be focused at the task at hand and be engaged in what I’m doing rather than obsessively checking my social media accounts, adding stuff to my to-list and going through a good round of self-criticism about the state of my bathroom. And you know what? Two days into the Great Single Task Experiment, not only I have gotten everything done on my to-do lists, but I’ve actually done a few extra things. And those chores and tasks I dread? Well, they didn’t seem so bad when I just did them instead of thinking, blogging, tweeting and/or making up songs about how much I dread them. In fact, I actually found the process enjoyable and satisfying. Indeed, there can be smiles in something as simple as changing the bed. Never saw that coming.

Over the past few years, I’ve developed a collection of silicone wrists bands I ordered from ReminderBand.com which not only does bulk orders but also single bracelets. I’ve had words and phrases of strength embossed on them along with happy-place thoughts. My most recent purchase reads: “Create My Experience.” Why? Because I get to choose how my day will be. On the bike, as I started to panic in anticipation of what the vibrating phone call could mean I tried to resist the urge to pull over and take a peak at my phone, I looked at my wrist. What did I want my experience to be in that moment? I wanted to be confident and calm. I know my stuff. I get my stuff done. There is plenty of time to do what I love, which would likely include whatever that phone call was about. Now let’s ride on.

0 Comments on “The Great Single Task Experiment

  1. The compulsion to multi-task is built into society these days. People think you’re crazy if you say, “I only do one thing at a time.” But it is true – you’ll get more done that way. When I’m serious involved in writing, I set aside time every hour to check social media, phone, etc. because that’s my “take a breath and a break” that I need to keep the creativity pumping. The funny thing is that my husband criticized me for being “tied” to my phone, but the say I didn’t answer his text within 30 seconds he got mad at me for “being away from the phone.” =)

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