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A new way of working – single-tasking

We spend so much time these days doing eight things at once. At my day job today I had 19 tabs open across three different browsers, 17 programs on my start bar, 9 of which were running, plus two productivity timers. I also have two notebooks (one personal, one business), my mobile, my tablet and my desk phone.

My desk at home isn’t much better…


… though muchly improved by the kitten. They’re usually up here when I’m working, one on the desk and one on the floor. But even here, where I choose what I do, I have multiple notebooks, folders, tabs in my browser, scraps of paper with interesting snippets on them, my mobile which is constantly pinging, letters and postcards to reply to.

You know what it’s like – you barely finish reading one article before shifting to the next. Sometimes you’ll click on a tab halfway through the day and realise you only got halfway through that tutorial on how to procrastinate less before *BOOM*, the Shiny Thing Problem resurfaced and you flew off to look at the next exciting thing.

This is partly to do with personality (creatives and entrepreneurs often find it nearly impossible to switch off bits of their brain and focus on one thing at a time), but is also because this is WAY too much information for one human being to process at once.

Among this mass of technology I often try to eat breakfast, do yesterday’s paper filing and talk to my colleagues about reasonably important things that need doing. I am forever making to-do lists which seem to grow rather than shrink as I achieve the items on them.

Enough is enough, and I want to try an experiement.  I want to try to do one single thing at a time – eat breakfast, have a conversation, read an article, write a post, finish a list of website edits… without hopping from one thing to another. I’d like to extend this to home and social life as well as my various working lives.

To cook without reading, play with the cats without being on the phone, talk to my friends on the phone without folding the washing (and doing the laundry without tripping over the cat?!).

I tend to subscribe to the view that if you’re busy, you’re getting things done. But my pleasantly busy has rapidly become complete overwhelm, where I have time for neither the things that must be done nor the things I want to do.

My friend Morwhenna says that to achieve more, you need to slow right down. I’ve fairly recently become officially properly single, which gives me incredible freedom to do exactly what I want without having to worry about anyone else. This seems like a good time to start the experiment.

I want to pay attention to everything that I do, whether mundane, necessary or exciting. Be in the moment more, be grateful that I am able to do these things, even if I’m not enjoying them much. Be aware of my senses – the movement, noises, smells and sights.

I’ll try it. I’ll let you know how I get on.

What can you do to slow down?