Misused Multi-tasking

Multi-tasking is so 2011.

Let 2012 be the year of focus! (i proclaim as I jump off my ball to refill my teacup before typing the next sentence…focus fail)

I love, love, love technology but lately I feel like it’s destroying my ability to focus on one task at a time.  While I type a post, check a patient in, even read blogs I have like a hundred little tabs eyeing me, tempting me to abandon whatever it is I’m working on.   I try to tell myself that this is time management; while one page is loading I have time to read an e-mail, check my blog stats, and maybe even fit in a push up or two.   It’s not just web-induced distractions either, I am a “pro”at cooking lunch, brewing tea for later, unloading grocery bags, catching up on my favorite t.v. shows, and planning my dance classes all within a 15 minute time frame.  Does it save time?  Maybe sometimes but it’s also contributing to my diminishing ability to focus on one thing at a time and follow through with it.

Yesterday I put myself to the test.  My to-do list was long but I made myself start with the least pleasant tasks at hand and see them all the way through directly to the end: no throwing in laundry mid-thought, no extra tabs on the screen, just one single objective.  Temptations were everywhere but I did well and in the end I don’t think it took me any longer than it would have otherwise, it just didn’t include any internet shopping along the way ;).

Yoga is an excellent tool for practicing focus but even my yoga practices have started out distracted lately.  I lay out my mat and for the first ~10 minutes of practice I find myself filled with thoughts of being anywhere/ doing anything else.  It’s not that the yoga doesn’t feel amazing for my body but my mind is so accustomed to the stimulation of multi-tasking that it struggles to drop in to the focus of yoga and just be there.  After the initial confusion my mind remembers what it’s like to single-task and by the end of the practice (which is sometimes just 15 minutes) I feel clearer and calmer than I do any other time in the day.   Then I return to old habits.

My multi-tasking habits had me in such a tailspin yesterday that I did the one thing that I knew would force me to stop and do nothing. I booked an acupuncture treatment.  I don’t mind needles but that doesn’t mean acupuncture feels good exactly but it always feels like just what I need at the time.  And laying on a table alone with needles stuck into so many places that I can’t even move is a hell of a lesson in being present and focused on one task at hand.

I can’t wait for my appointment tomorrow!

Do you find yourself doing a thousand things at every moment?  Or have you found that you function better if you focus on one thing at a time?  What tips do you have to stay focused even while trying to complete many things at once?


  1. Lindsey

    This post is perfect for me today, as I woke up early to take yoga, but spent the entire 90 minute practice feeling like I was in a hurry to get somewhere else–AKA into the shower and to work. Once at work, let the multi-tasking begin!

    I am finding that for me, it’s best to not demand 100% focus, but also to not let the multi-tasking get out of hand. I try dedicate myself to one task for a short period of time, enough to focus and complete at least the majority of 1 thing before moving on to another. Then, my “reward” is to click around on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc… for a few minutes before starting something else.

    I’ve never done acupuncture (my sister has been telling me I should, though!)…maybe it would help…

  2. I can definitely fall victim to the “multi-tasking” demon — don’t you love/hate multiple tab options? A solid & prioritized to-do list helps me, as well as committing to…”I’m going to do x,y,z before checking my email, Google Reader, etc.”
    I also try to take that on the mat focus & apply it to other areas. Be here now. We work more efficiently & can truly focus & maybe even enjoy an action, when we are present. It sounds sort of silly, but it completely changes the experience, even of something like laundry, if you really feel the clothes in your hands & experience each motion, rather than go through mindlessly — which I think has a tendency to occur during multi-tasking.
    I’ve never had acupuncture. I’d love to hear more of your thoughts/experiences.

    • gracefulfitness

      I know exactly what you mean. When I run around like a chicken with my head cut off-just going through the motions and getting stuff done-I end up anxious and dissatisfied. When I focus and acknowledge what I’m doing I can find pleasure in the most mundane tasks-and it usually doesn’t take any longer then the crazy chicken version!

  3. Perhaps it’s because I loathe grading, but I HAVE to find a place without internet access in order that I get any work done. I have a really hard time staying focused . I’ve found that my most productive time is from 4-630 in the morning, so that’s when I do much of my school work. I stay of blogs and plug away. That reminds me…I need to get to bed soon if I hope to be up that early tomorrow:)

    I feel you.

    • gracefulfitness

      4-6:30 am? Sheesh, that’s when I get my most productive sleeping done! 🙂
      I actually love mornings and do find them to be my most productive time but after years and years of not sleeping due to insomnia I now grab as much of it as I can!

  4. Oh my. This post is so ME, it’s almost ridiculous.

    I’ve had a hard time focusing in yoga lately too. It’s almost like I’ve been okay with that, just using it as a time to stretch and strengthen but not really practicing the whole “being present thing.” Thanks for the reminder!

    I definitely do better when I’m focused on one thing! I like to multitask, but jobs are done more efficiently when I can devote all of my time to one. thing. at. a. time.

  5. Mia

    Staying focused has been a big challenge for me too! I tend to be a “jill-of-all-trades.” My comedian older brother’s impersonation of me is getting into warrior II (yoga asana) while stirring food in a pot with one hand and taking a photo with the other hand! I do tend to multi-task because I think I do better when I’m busy – it forces me to schedule wisely. Anthropologically – I wonder if multi-tasking has to do with being a woman? (I know, that’s me trying to convince myself…)
    But on the other hand, I worry about the quality of the job when I multi-task too much. I also have trouble prioritizing, so that’s part of the issue. A good friend of mine told me to focus on the big rocks first. The big rocks are the big priorities. Put your big rocks in a jar (your life/schedule) first, then the medium rocks, then the small rocks. If we fill the jar with small rocks, then we won’t have space for the big ones. I also try to break up my tasks and my time into smaller, more manageable increments so it feels like there is a clear end point.

    It’s ironic though that the more information I have at my fingertips (with technology and x number of gadgets with which to get information), the less concentration I also have…

    • gracefulfitness

      Thanks Mia, I love this comment! The part about your brother is hilarious!
      I do believe that there is a huge gender aspect to multi-tasking (not that men don’t but just that women are prone to it) and it’s makes sense (to me at least) that it has to do with preparing for babies!
      The rocks imagery is lovely. As a former raft guide I had a hard time not seeing it the opposite way because on the river it’s usually the little rock that f*** you! ha!

      • Mia

        Faith – I did not know that about the little rocks while rafting! 🙂
        I forgot to add one other thing in my comment above – have you read about Covey’s matrix (from his book “First Things First”)? If not, I’m sure lots of websites will come up if you search it on google. That was a pretty helpful tip for me too in that it made me take a good, hard look at how I prioritize so I can stay focused. I wrote about it here – http://anandani-yoga.blogspot.com/2011/06/organized-chaos.html – though my matrix may not be the best illustration!

        • gracefulfitness

          This is probably a ridiculous question but do you know of Cindy Kurleto? She was a bit of a star in the Philippines, anyways she’s a good friend of mine!

  6. Multiple-tasking never let’s me In theZone/ truly one of my favorite “places”to be. I want to write and I know that requires a private parking space in the Zone. MT is a human mimicking the computer/Focus and Intention is a human Being Eh?

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