Published: Nov 14, 2016 12:00:00 PM

hero-old-man-calligraphy.gifMulti-tasking has become the gold standard for the unconfident to demonstrate productivity ever since men started answering their own office telephones.

Tasks, past-times, and relationships have been hammered into paper-thin metal sheets slotted into the human mind like circuitry in a tall-stack server farm. We believe an overrun, thought-soaked marshland is the best possible brain, one action flooding over into another, finding its way to the sea.

Many actively fear focusing on a single task in life, at work, or with other people.

Why? Because long sentences make great scapegoats.

What does that mean? Let's dig deeper.

\\\ Mono-tasking is confidence.

What goes through your mind when you make sure to do more than one thing at a time? For instance, keeping a TV on in the background while cooking dinner. This isn't a make or break, life-ender decision, booting up Netflix while you chop onions. You aren't suffering for doing those two things at once. Try an exercise though:

Which task is more critical?

It's likely the cooking. You could take or leave the TV, yes?

What purpose does the background TV noise servce?

It's just that. Background noise. To occupy one half of your brain while the other slips into easygoing veggie carving. Quiet the noisy parts to focus on the more critical task.

Why is your mind noisy?

Short answer, because you likely haven't given it space to process what it's churning over. Those thoughts might've been consistently pushed aside by extra multi-tasking. Instead of addressing them, they go neglected.

When do you address the noise in your mind?

Sit and think? Who has time for that?

Why not? Why isn't sitting and thinking valuable? Aren't your thoughts important? Don't you deserve a moment to sit and think?

Well, sometimes, you might sit with a book, a drink, and maybe some music to set the scene. No, that doesn't count.

Sitting and thinking, like sitting and doing any ONE THING, could potentially yield an unsavory result: you could have nothing to show for your time. Describing your actions at length, detailing how you sat in the sun, put on your favorite playlist from Spotify, and read a book recommended by your roommate's girlfriend, there are many roads into understanding that person. You can ask questions of them.

Because they multi-tasked. A habitual multi-tasker is adrift. 

\\ Multi-tasking is hedging your bets.

Suppose somebody asks you what you did Saturday afternoon. Instead of talking about that book you absent-mindedly read, or the Spotify list you didn't examine, or the iced tea that you suddenly realize was too sweet, what if you only had one thing to report?

If you didn't hedge your bets with flimsy, scatterbrained garbage, and said, "I sat and thought," the person on the other end of that conversation would probably ask you to leave their daughter's bat mitzvah.

\ Hearing about mono-tasking scares people.

Mono-tasking sounds like a luxury or a task. You have so much time that you can devote all your attention to one thing? Not only are you weird, but your forever-watching audience may feel you aren't working hard. Hard work is the solidarity that keeps us comfy.

Consider your response to the following:

"I sat and watched all of Luke Cage on Netflix last weekend."

"I cleaned up garbage on the side of the road last weekend."

"I wrote poems last weekend."

"I cleaned out my email inbox all day Monday."

"I blocked my calendar and spent all of Tuesday planning my coming month."

"I researched our competitors this morning. This aftenoon, I'm going to eat their lunch."

It often doesn't make sense to people when they hear these things in conversation. It can require a lengthy explanation to explain how it even works, to be focused enough or comfortable enough with one thing at a time.

Mono-tasking weirds people out because it means you're declaring a high priority. Having shit so in order that others become intimidated? It terrifies certain individuals. It can set you apart from them and their coping mechanisms. You make things up for their benefit.

Don't. You are under no obligation to make them feel comfortable with their lacking confidence.

Figure out how to do one thing at a time. Teach others to use a brush without bristles. 

-- Alex Crumb
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