Relationships

Discovering the Joy of Single-Tasking

The Joy of Single-Tasking

While writing this post, I’ve checked eight emails and replied to four, checked Instagram for a second and saw this gorgeous wedding photo, talked to Stella about an upcoming photo shoot, and made a quick work phone call.

But, um, maybe — just thinking out loud here — it might be better to single-task? Multi-tasking has long been praised in the workplace, yet it’s kind of crazy when you think about it. Doing one thing at a time, and checking everything off the list, seems almost revolutionary these days. Single-tasking (or monotasking or unitasking) seems to be catching on more and more, as people get sick of feeling frazzled and pulled in all directions.

Single-tasking can make both your work and personal life better, writes Verena von Pfetten in the New York Times:

Humans have finite neural resources that are depleted every time we switch between tasks, which, especially for those who work online, Ms. Zomorodi said, can happen upward of 400 times a day, according to a 2016 University of California, Irvine study. “That’s why you feel tired at the end of the day,” she said. “You’ve used them all up.”

Monotasking can also be as simple as having a conversation. “Practice how you listen to people,” [psychologist Kelly] McGonigal said. “Put down anything that’s in your hands and turn all of your attentional channels to the person who is talking. You should be looking at them, listening to them, and your body should be turned to them. If you want to see a benefit from monotasking, if you want to have any kind of social rapport or influence on someone, that’s the place to start. That’s where you’ll see the biggest payoff.”

For the past couple years, I’ve left my phone at home when taking the boys to the park or playground. Even the weight of the phone in my pocket feels distracting. But after the boys are in bed, I’ll pull it back out again and have it generally around while watching TV or hanging out with Alex. But research shows that just having a phone on the table is distracting enough to reduce empathy and rapport between two people having a conversation, McGonigal told the Times. Now I want to try to keep it off all evening.

I met a guy once in L.A. who had “No-Phone Saturdays” during the first weekend of each month. He said it was really liberating — he would strike up conversations with people in line at the grocery story, and he actually bought a watch so he would know the time. And James Hamblin from the Atlantic has “Tab-Less Thursdays,” where he can have only one tab open on his computer at a time.

The Joy of Single-Tasking

Thoughts? Do you already do this? Do you have any phone rules?

P.S. Trying out slow parenting, which has really changed our family’s life.

(Photo by Kendra Smoot. Comic by Gemma Correll.)

  1. I am lovely the idea of Tabless Thursdays! I’m definitely looking to adopt something like this at weekends – its always more productive to concentrate on one thing.

    eppie.me.uk

  2. I absolutely love this post and encouragement to stay in the moment! Such a beautiful thing to be able to do. Thank you for this lovely reminder and inspiration!

  3. I didn’t get a data plan until recently, so anytime I was out in public I would essentially be phone-less. I always found it interesting how many people would bury their face in their phone in public or even when out to eat with others. I still keep my data turned off unless it’s necessary (directions, looking up business hours, coupons, etc).

  4. Regardless of phone rules I truly believe that uni-tasking is the way to go. I am so easily distracted at times that I can’t get ONE project completed as I have 5 ball juggling in the air. Down with the multi-tasking!

  5. Jamie says...

    My husband and I have a rule at home: if there is food in front of us, there are no phones. Same rule applies when we are out for dinner, drinks, whatever. We want to be plugged in with each other and it really makes a huge difference in our marriage!

  6. I am so bad at this, I always feel like I’m not being productive enough if I’m only focusing on one thing though. Like I should feel bad or something, so silly x

  7. Sometimes we wanna do it all but definitely agree that multi-tasking tends to leave you frazzled and less productive!

  8. Those are the tactics I use to help me focus. I give myself planned distraction times so I can focus when the time comes.

  9. paperink says...

    I love the idea of phone free days – so important for our children to see us unplugged as well.
    I would be more lost without my watch than I would my phone.
    I hate digging around for my phone to check the time, it makes me feel like a twitchy, impulsive person.
    Also, it makes the person you are meeting with feel less important if your phone is on the table.

    Being present is the gift that keeps on giving.

  10. Alice says...

    I’m a mono-tasker. I have always worked freelance and mostly from home and have trained myself to be so. Plus I’m just a terrible multi-tasker – it stresses me out. And I’m into yoga and that breeds mono-taskers. My husband is on his phone ALL the time. I love my phone but I love my husband and kids more. And in public, people don’t look where they’re going, or they’ve got headphones in while having a conversation with the person next to them. Or they’re constantly glancing at alerts.
    It’s like 75% present has become the norm.
    And it sucks.
    Rant over.

  11. Anne says...

    I just discovered the BEST tip for unplugging: Make your phone grayscale! I love it so much I just made my laptop grayscale too. It totally cuts the emotional connection. I still like looking at Facebook, but I don’t feel sucked into it. It’s like the difference between eating because I’m hungry-ish and eating because I’m starving.

    • Kerri says...

      Thank you, this is a fantastic idea; I just switched my settings to try it out!

  12. i need to learn how to do this. recently, i’ve been noticing how half-assed (sorry, only word that felt appropriate) i get when i multitask and then my brain literally jumbles everything together. definitely something i need to work on

    hammyta.wordpress.com

  13. jessie says...

    I do not own a cell phone. It is heavenly! And yes, I still have a life! I highly suggest either not having one or moving from a smartphone to a flip phone. It is so important that our time and space is our own and we really do not need to be available to literally everyone at all times.

    • I have a cell phone without access to the internet lika I’ve had since I began carrying one – and I agree with you – it’s a great feeling to not let a phone run my day! Instead I’m being able to be more present in everyday activities.

  14. I’m not always as good as I should be a single task focusing, BUT when I do it’s so much better. I’m definitely MUCH more productive when I focus on one task at a time. Thank you for this reminder, as I’ve not been as good about this as of late.

  15. My phone rule: don’t own one. I’ll be forty this year and have never had a cell phone, never will. I understand they offer convenience, but I dislike a lot of what they’ve done regarding how we communicate with each other and our surroundings (or how we DON’T do those things).

  16. Remember when going online wasn’t so quick and easy? You’d have to dial up and wait! And do it at a computer. And there weren’t so many fun websites to look at, you were usually just after specific information or to email someone. It was a lot easier to single task back then.

  17. Laura C says...

    A million times I have thought of getting rid of my smartphone and get a n old cellular. But I cant do it- as a mom of two little girls I should be available all day.
    Anyway, currently loving this single tasking idea. Thank you CoJ!

  18. “Multi-tasking has long been praised in the workplace, yet it’s kind of crazy when you think about it.” This has baffled me my entire adult life, I can’t multi-task, if I do something doesn’t get done properly. In interviews and on resumes, people say or wrote mulit-tasking as if it were a badge of honor. It’s not, the glorification of busy and multi-tasking is what’s causing this stressed out society to become sick, enjoy life less and all for what?

  19. Yes! Many studies demonstrate that multi-tasking actually gets less done and with more mistakes.

  20. YES!!!! Totally agree. Hubby and I leave this Monday for a 5 day cruise. Unplugged. Will be enjoying casting my eyes toward the open seas instead of the “open tabs”. ;)! Great read.
    http://partyyes.blogspot.com

  21. Darley Tom says...

    I highly recommend you check out the podcast “Note To Self,” especially their newest episode which has great tips on single tasking!

  22. It’s great to do just one thing at a time, like when we paint, it helps you relax and feel at peace.

    Shruthi
    http://nyambura.co

  23. Amy says...

    Does Gemma sell prints? Bc her comic at the bottom is cracking me up and I’d love to hang a print in my office as a gentle reminder!

  24. I support the idea of single-tasking. I still have tendencies to multi-task and in some instances I still think it’s productive (like reading or writing while waiting on the washer, or while on commute) but on most days, I try to tackle tasks one by one. It’s always a good feeling to keep moving on to the next tasks knowing that there’s nothing left to go back to!

  25. joanna says...

    I am a unitasker. I dont start something til I’m done with the last one. It takes mindfulness but very worth it. There is a f as fab post by Leo Baubauta that has changed my life. He writes at http://www.zenhabits.com
    You all should read it.

  26. Zoe says...

    I also read this while multitasking! But reminds me of when I unplugged for my family’s Christmas vacation. We were on holiday with only so-so wifi at the place we were staying. I never went online and it was so relaxing, but I would ask others to look things up for me!! Haha

  27. Suzanne says...

    This concept is exactly why I value my hour of crossfit daily–besides the health benefits–it is an activity where I truly cannot focus on anything else. Even my thoughts are about the task at hand–it oddly feels a little zen and very in the moment–something I typically struggle with in my daily life.
    I also agree with the phone thing–I am trying to be better about having it out when hanging out with my boyfriend.

  28. NMM says...

    Too neurotic to leave my phone at home when I take my kid to the playground . . . what if I need to call 911?!

    • Emily says...

      Yeah this is kind of me too. I’d hate to be away from my phone in an emergency. Before kids I’d take walks without my phone all the time, but now I try to always have it. I do try to just leave it in my pocket though!

  29. JJ says...

    Speaking of podcasts (as you sometimes do), a great one that I listen to regularly is On Being with Krista Tippett. This episode about growing up the internet / our current relationship to technology (it’s not a bad guy!), is particularly enlightening, and includes discussion of the interviewee’s years of practicing a “tech shabbat” with her family. Recommended.

    http://www.onbeing.org/program/tiffany-shlain-growing-up-the-internet/8545

  30. Kylee says...

    When I first met my husband he was constantly checking his email while we were out to dinner, so I simply said I had a no phone at dinner rule. Ten years and two kids later that still holds :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      That’s awesome.

  31. Amy says...

    Trying, when possible, to do one thing at a time was my New Year’s resolution ten years ago. It might sound dramatic, but it totally changed my life. I’m more realistic about what I can actually do in a day, and I’m calmer, among other benefits. I notice when I try to do too many things at once, I don’t even breathe as much as normal, and I get a panicky feeling…and that used to be my norm!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      That’s awesome!!

    • Julia says...

      I know this felling of not breathing deeply because of multitasking! I have this alle the time and try to slow down, telling me that it is me and nobody else pushing myself to do as much as possible in the least possible time. Is it a trait of character or how can I permanently switch this urge off!?

  32. My hubby and I are getting ready to leave on a cruise for 5 days. No phones… no computer. Completely Unplugged. I am so so looking forward to casting my eyes toward the open seas instead of the “open tabs”. ;)!
    http://partyyes.blogspot.com

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      How cool! I love that feeling too when we are staying with my grandmother and don’t get service in her little town.

  33. molly says...

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because as a homeschooling mama of four, I’m almost always doing multiple things at once, and lately it’s weighed heavy on me because I’ve been feeling like my schoolage daughters must feel like I’m always distracted — I’ll wash dishes while they work on a school lesson at the bar counter next to the sink, I’ll hop up from the table to swap a load of laundry in the midst of conversation or workbook practice, or I’m tending to the baby while also reading aloud from our current book… I’ve been trying to focus more on one thing at a time, especially during our lessons but it can be so easy to get distracted by the household responsibilities or just life’s goings-on. Thank you for the reminder to be more intentional! I don’t want any of my children to feel less important because I’m trying to multi-task. xo

  34. Lisa says...

    London’s underground generally doesn’t have phone signal (only on some above ground lines) and has wifi in stations, but it’s a complete pain to try and do anything as you’re connecting and disconnecting from wifi the whole time. I now realise that this is probably how I used to manage to read so many books on my commute into work as I couldn’t be distracted by my phone, and there’s a huge advantage to totally focus song on your book and zoning out your surroundings … Thank you underground!

  35. I actually really really need to start trying this. I find I’m always doing about four things at once and endlessly switching between social media channels, or getting distracted by Buzzfeed articles. Even if I’m watching TV I feel like I have to be doing something else at the same time!

    Steph – http://www.nourishmeblog.co.uk

  36. Ashley says...

    I love this idea! And have been thinking that I’d like to incorporate a “no phone” policy on date nights with my husband (i.e. leave the phones at home!), but I always get nervous that there will be an emergency and our babysitter will need to get in touch with us. Joanna, do you ever get nervous that you will absolutely need your phone when you are at the park with your boys? It’s obviously so silly because we all survived just fine with parents who did not have cellphones when they took us out of the house, but especially since having a baby, I feel a need to be constantly reachable… by my husband, by our babysitters etc. It makes it hard to leave the house without my phone.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Good question! When we’re out, we are always around other parents or stores, etc, so I figure I’d borrow a phone if we needed to call an ambulance or something. And on dates, I ask Alex to bring his phone for the sitter — he is really good about not checking his phone otherwise! :)

  37. second thought – this is also why i swim laps religiously! no phones, controlled breathing. your mind can wander but i do some of my best thinking in the pool!

    • Eliza says...

      I’ve totally noticed this! Swimming laps was the best thing I did in the last weeks of my pregnancies. In part because of the exercise but mostly because I worked out a lot of my anxiety about birth during those quiet times in the pool when there was nothing to do but breathe and think (or not think).

  38. I go on technology fasts on sundays from occasion. From the time I go to bed on Saturday night to sundown on Sunday – no phone and no computer. It’s, quite frankly, terrifying at first because you’re so used to reaching for your phone or (for me) even listening to music at every second of boredom. But after a while it’s quite liberating.!

  39. Lisa says...

    I’m working on this because a
    smart phone is so freaking addictive

    I’m Jewish and shomeret Shabbat (like in the big Lebowski) which means that i have 25 hours a week off electronics and it’s so refreshing. I used to (pre baby) have the best naps because you can’t be distracted and there’s not much else you can do, so I would conk out for 2/3 hours

  40. I really needed this. I’m a terrible multitasker. I will always forget to do something when I attempt to do it all at once- which I’m always doing because I’m a mom (of twins nonetheless). I also think multitasking is very different today than it was just 10 years ago when society wasn’t so dependent on mobile phones and the expectations of always having to answer a call/text/email the second we receive it. I’m all for Switch it Off Sunday or Tabless Tuesday! Who’s with me?!
    XOXO, Amy
    http://www.jeansandatea.com

  41. I just traded in my iPhone for a clunky flip phone, and it was the best decision. I was convinced this was a necessary step for me after hearing Zady Smith on Lena Dunham’s Women of the Hour podcast. She explained how she’s lassoed the internet and technology to reclaim her life and to protect her creative space to write. I, too, admit to being a technology addict; when I was plugged in with an iPhone, “Beyonce google holes,” as Zady aptly put it, constantly called to me like digital sirens. Smith said: “I didn’t want to get to 86 and think that a large part of my life had been spent in Mr. Jobs’ universe, on his phone with his apps. I don’ want that for my life.” And I concurred.
    I bid adieu to my iPhone, and its amazing how much time I’ve reclaimed! Here’s a list of activities I’ve undertaken with my newly-allotted time: I made banana bread; I’ve started on an embroidery project I’ve been meaning to get around to since 2013; I read an entire book!; I had a picnic in a meadow with some friends; I flip through my cookbooks to try out new dinner recipes; I head into the woods with a plant identification book and get to know our flora, I tend our veggie garden, etc.!

    • Laura says...

      I am soooo tempted to do this. I was late to the party getting a smart phone, and i feel myself getting more addicted as the days pass. gonna add that podcast to my listening list :) thanks for the encouragement!
      (on the other hand, i do like listening to podcasts when i go for walks… this is the only thing that i think would make it hard for me to make the switch. i guess i could get like an ipod or something?!? blargh.)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      You could get an iPod for sure. I remember walking to work back in the day with my DISCMAN!!

    • Suzie says...

      I don’t have a smartphone either! Never had one, actually. My 6 year old flip phone just died and I got another phone that isn’t a smartphone. Everyone told me I would need a smartphone once I became a mom but it just isn’t true. So I’m not looking at my phone all the time b/c there’s not much it can do! But still I need to be careful of how much time I spend on the internet and also playing games on the iPad. There are too many devices these days to take away our precious time and make us spend it on things of no lasting value.

  42. adriane says...

    Clearly i need this as it took me a few hours to finish it :( Thanks Joanna! I always feel like I learn something new from you. :)

  43. Kailey says...

    I’m really trying to bring the practice of single-tasking into my work (thank you for giving me a name for it!) I find myself rushed and flustered often, jumping between tasks, with a liberal peppering of email or instagram breaks. And then, my husband and I took a mini vacation in the Rockies a month ago and stayed at the resort without internet or tvs in the room. In truth, my husband had a mini panic attack when we arrived, but by the end of our trip, we realized that to sit quietly together without any distractions was pure bliss. And who wouldn’t like a little more bliss?

  44. Madie says...

    Totally guilty of this, and yet I know that there are those activities in life where you are completely absorbed in doing ONE thing and it feels so good to dedicate all your mental (and sometimes physical) efforts towards it – it’s like physical therapy for your brain and soul. When I was growing up, it was horseback riding (there is not much else you can do while controlling and navigating a 2000 lb animal…) I’m trying to build these types of activities back into my life as an adult. Recently I took up knitting and it serves the same purpose. I can’t check my phone, or really even watch TV because I’m not good enough yet and I’ll lose count of my stitches. :)

  45. Marti says...

    Monotasking is my thing. I’ve never really been good at multitasking…..and I’ve been all the more conscious of this fact after having three rambunctious sons, whose needs pull me in a million directions all day long. I’ve been conscious of this fact while simultaneously feeling like a “less than” mother (mothers are supposed to rock at multitasking, right?!)….to the point that I considered getting tested for ADD…… But this post has literally lifted my thoughts to the idea that MAYBE I’m not inept, but, rather, normal?!

  46. Lauren E. says...

    To me, single-tasking is a form of meditation. You’re focused and you’re occupied but you have to acknowledge distractions and then let them go. It’s tough but so rewarding, whether it’s folding laundry or chatting with a friend or working on a project in the office.

  47. carlsbad says...

    For some reason, I find it hard to watch tv without a book in my hand or my phone.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      agreed! in my twenties, i used to knit while watching TV and it made me super calm :)

  48. I learned that with my husband, actually, and I try to do it every day. He has to hire people all the time. He says he doesn’t like when people come to interviews and keeps saying over and over that they can multitask. This is not a good thing! When you do many things at the same time you become average in everything you do. If you do one thing at the time, you become great.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      great point. and isn’t that an old expression? “jack of all trades, master of none,” i think!

  49. I read a horrifying study that “multi-tasking” is a total sham, as in, the brain doesn’t actually multitask. And, those of us who think we’re doing a good job if it are actually just doing a bunch of things crappier than if we just focused on one thing at a time – EGADS.

    World, shattered!

  50. Nina says...

    as a side note, I went to a movie once with a person who checked facebook midway through. last time I’ll ever see a movie with that person. I was so embarrassed. I hate answering my phone for other calls when talking to people and will only do so when its an emergency like I left a message for my doctor or landlord and HAVE to talk to them. I’ve also always hated call waiting. I rarely go out with people who are on their phones during eating etc…I try not to be. I’ve had people come up and tell me how nice it is to see my son and me having a conversation and not being on phones so I think its less common. how sad! I think its truly losing connections. though my son is only 8, he is very charming and articulate and talks to people. I hope that’s always the case.

    • Carrie says...

      That same thing happened to me but at a ballet!!! The lights had just gone down and his bright screen was lit up- very embarrassing and made me feel so uncultured!

  51. Nina says...

    Ha, very funny comic. I rarely turn my phone on at home. My son, who is 8, is much more aware of when I get texts and things. I grew up in a home where we weren’t allowed to answer phones during meals or after 8pm or call people after that time. So I am used to not being constantly available. I just bought a new car that has a blue tooth handless component which I actually LOVE because I can talk to people while driving more safely and then when I am home, I don’t need to answer the phone. My son and I will have movie nights and we both agree – no electronics! I know many people recommend only checking email certain times of the day but that doesn’t work for me. I do have a little notifier of what the email is so if its not impt I ignore until I have more time.

  52. Julie says...

    Yes! I always keep my phone away when meeting up with friends, and I get reeeeally annoyed if I’m hanging out with friends and they have their phones out or are constantly checking them. I just think it’s so rude. Maybe it’s because I was really late to the smart-phone game so I’m not as addicted as some.

  53. Alix says...

    WNYC’s series Note to Self (hosted by Manoush Zomorodi) recently did a whole bunch of episodes on how to reduce information overload. The program is called “Infomagical,” and apparently the hardest, but most rewarding, exercise in the program was singletasking!

    Check it out here if you’d like to participate: http://project.wnyc.org/infomagical/

  54. My favorite quote about the perils of multi-tasking: “The man who chases two rabbits catches neither.”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love that!

  55. I agree with this philosophy so much! There have been moments recently, where I accidentally leave my phone in another room and don’t realize it for an hour or two. And once I do, I almost never got up to get it. I figure, why interrupt this moment I’m enjoying to stare at a tiny screen?

    Thanks for sharing!
    -Helen @ http://www.kaleidoscopespinning.com

  56. Leticia says...

    I used to be pretty focused and used to get LOTS done. Then one day I have no idea what happened and I became this totally unfocused personal. crazy. I struggle everyday trying to focus on one thing at a time. Real challenge for me these days…

  57. Yes! I get so distracted when I try to do multiple things at once and then nothing gets done! For me, it’s much better to do one thing at a time until that task is done. Are you a multi-tasker or a single tasker?

  58. emily says...

    I listened to a podcast the other day where the host is purposefully practicing being bored for a small chunk of time every day. The day of the episode, she put everything back in her bag 10 minutes before her stop on the train and just stared out the window. Something about that feels so brilliant and revolutionary to me. We have an endless number of ways to entertain ourselves in the modern age and I’m not sure I can even remember the last time I was bored.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that concept. it’s like we’ve forgotten how to let our minds wander.

  59. To be honest, while reading this post I also Instagram stalked two people, checked my work email, and sent an email before getting to the end of your post.

    I have no rules when it comes to my phone so that could be restricting. I actually find myself so surprised when I realize I haven’t thought of it or checked it for a while – both relieved but excited to check what I’ve “missed” on :/

    Also, I still have an internet crush on James Hamblin.

    I think I mask distraction as multi-tasking but honestly, it’s all I’ve known! Probably since middle school when myspace came about.

    I should work on that.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      (totally still have an internet crush on james hamblin:)

  60. I’m really trying to do this more and focus on one thing at a time. But when it comes to social media, it easily starts to feel like you’ll miss out on things that actually are important. (Or maybe I just have FOMO?)

  61. Winter Blue says...

    I think these conversations are so interesting – I have a phone but purposefully no data plan. I can text with it, make calls, and that’s about it. I sit at a computer most of the day so I figure there is not much of that I want to follow around with me during my personal time. This simple choice – no data plan – seems to have protected me from all the craziness that I read about with people and their phones. I keep the sound off and rarely look at it, unless I’m expecting a text or a call, but that’s quite rare. Everyone who knows me well knows it can be hours, or even overnight, before I respond (again though, I can also be quite quick on it if I’m making plans etc.). I recommend this as a trial – I bet you won’t miss much, and you gain a lot of personal time for yourself and your loved ones. You can always go back – your phone company might even cut you a better deal :)

  62. Shannon says...

    I love when I leave my phone at home or upstairs and forget to retrieve. Just having it in my hand is distracting. My son also sees and then wants to watch truck videos on youtube. It’s good for both of us to be free of it. When I’m at work I have the awful habit of doing everything at once. I’m so aware of it too and I can’t stop because I have all my electronics at once in front of me. I’m better at unitasking when I’m at home. Also Tab-Less Tuesdays is hilarious.

  63. What frustrates me is that even in the face of so much emerging research on how quality and efficiency suffer when multitasking, job descriptions still so often have “ability to multitask” as a required qualification. Until our workplaces let go of the multitasking myth I’m afraid we’ll have to keep doing it!

    At home I do try to let go of the phone and be more focused on a book or with my husband or puppy. This weekend we are going camping and will be monotasking a lot! Can’t wait to unplug!

  64. Sera says...

    I’ve been trying to manage Tabless Thursdays for 4(!) years now, it’s actually happened 7 times (I don’t want to think about how many Thursdays it’s been!), I always think I’ll feel more peace with less tabs but I guess I’m habituated to too many tabs.

    One thing I will do is turn my phone to silent (no vibrate) when I want to be present with my family or someone else, that way I have the time and ability to call if needed but I’m not getting the. next. notification.

    I think we’ve all been so conditioned to be “entertained” or “available” that’s it’s hard to focus on just one thing, one thing I have found really helps is to set a timer to focus. Even if it’s just 10 minutes it’s focused and I know whatever else will wait just fine!

  65. YOGA. It’s a great introduction to the process. I’ve found that practicing that sort of focus is really helping me in other areas. And I do think it takes practice, for sure.

    • Jessica says...

      Seconded! I love that I have 90 mins or so every day that my phone is zipped away and placed under a bench far away from me.

  66. Alyssa Leister says...

    This is such a good reminder for me. I’m a Project Manager which means my job changes minute to minute. One minute my highest priority is answering an email. The next it’s typing up a cost comparison. The next it’s talking with a designer. It’s almost impossible for me to start a project and finish it. But I leave for home absolutely exhausted and seeing the article about only having so much capacity to switch makes complete sense. I need to get better about putting down my phone too! Thanks for this.

  67. Katie says...

    Reading this while pumping, holding the flange with one hand, waiting for a conference call to start, with headphones in my ears and one hand available to take notes. Just checked my work email and thought I’d get in some good browsing… ugh!

  68. Amy L says...

    Yes… I might agree though with the commenter about how that sounds like we are just distracted. Phones are so tough. I can barely stop checking it all the time. I always think about leaving it at home when I take my kids to the park, but then I’m like, ‘How will I know what time it is? What if my husband has a question or wants to meet up with us?”. Mostly a lot of “what ifs”.
    However, I’ve been really bad in the evening for just being on my phone all the time texting my sister or friends while I hang out with my husband (and he does it too), even while we watch a movie. This reminds me I should really put some limits on it or I will go crazy.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, it’s crazy to watch TV with your phone. i often do that, and i’ve heard that psychologists count that as double screen time. so if you watch a show for an hour, and you’re checking your phone, that counts as TWO hours of screen time. yikes!

  69. I think there are many things that can simmer on their own, and the trick is to be organized enough that it happens. Imagine making a dinner, one thing at a time–it doesn’t work. You put the potatoes on, then you get the meat going in the oven while you sauté the vegetables (or vice versa). You aren’t really cooking these things actively.
    I like to throw a load of laundry in the machine before going to run. I come back, and while cooling down I hang it to dry. That is multitasking, but while I run, I am not thinking about laundry; I am thinking about running. Some things, like laundry, just don’t deserve to be thought about.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      great point!!

  70. Charlotte K says...

    I THOUGHT I was single-tasking while reading this but then I realized I am also eating my lunch!
    If I’m eating with others I focus on them and the food, but when I eat alone, I never just eat. I read webstuff, or a book, or fiddle with my phone. I probably ought to work on that!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      maybe that’s the “good” kind of multitasking, like catherine said in her comment?

  71. I can’t lie, I really don’t think I could go without my phone for a day. It’s sad to say but I really am just so dependant on it. I love a good challenge so maybe if I set myself one I can be able to not be so addicted to it. X

    http://www.lauralivinglife.com

  72. Honestly I really try since years to avoid multi-tasking as I know it doesn’t work :) At least for me :)
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena
    http://www.dressedwithsoul.com

  73. Dawn says...

    I’ve been trying to instill the ‘being in the moment/one thing at a time’ mentality to my two teenagers while trying to be a good model as well. It can be very challenging on both ends! It seems as if the only time my family is successfully present is on vacation where we really take in everything, take our sweet time and really enjoy each other’s company…Is being permanently on vacation an option in life? :P

  74. It’s such a simple concept but it really makes all the difference. I need to work on monotasking. Typically with multitasking, I tend to get only part of each task finished. It is less often that I actually fully complete something.
    Thanks for the post!

  75. Rebecca says...

    Just dropped my kid off at camp, and they seemed taken aback that the phone number I gave them was an actual land line. Even when I explained that I live down the street, and would be at home the entire morning, they were unsure….I’ve never had a smart phone, precisely because my brain moves in a million directions all on its own. But the tab thing is harder…case in point, I’m supposed to be working right now.

  76. So guilty of this, and it’s a great reminder to be more intentional with one’s time (live in the moment, etc., etc., etc.). Thanks for the post!

  77. I feel like that’s not multi-tasking, that’s just being distracted! Which I definitely do – and I feel like it’s all because of being so digitally stimulated. Instagram. Twitter notification! Hey let me Google that thing I just remembered I wanted to look at yesterday but I forgot because my internet timed out.

    To me, true multi-tasking means doing 2 or more tasks at the same time and doing them properly, like cleaning the bathroom while on loudspeaker talking to your Mum about your schedule for next week’s visit. Or watching TV while addressing wedding invitations.

    Writing a blog post/checking social media/eating a snack while running out the door isn’t multi-tasking, it’s just doing too much at once!

    • p.s. that wedding picture is dreaaammmy though!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      good point!

    • Amy says...

      I really agree with this. Social media, reading articles online…these are distractions. To me, multi-tasking means getting two or more things accomplished at the same time. I’ll admit that I naturally like things simple and “clean,” which generally means I usually don’t have more than one thing going on at a time. That being said, I think social media or and general “phone time” is a distraction and doesn’t always count as an accomplishment.

      PS – I’m not on any social media, so I’ve been able to keep things relatively simple. I read news articles and obviously I read this blog every day :), but not much beyond that. For me, it’s hard to be fully present if I’m also checking my phone, etc.

  78. Lucy says...

    Agree exactly with with Alice says above. It’s so hard for me to resist the temptation of my phone but I enjoy everything so much more without the distractions! The other day, I took my toddler to a city bench and we ate bagels and watched dogs pass by for about 30 minutes. I kept my phone in my purse and really felt in the moment (for a change!)

  79. Sadie says...

    I love this post! It reminds me of a book I’m currently reading called One Thing. (http://www.amazon.com/ONE-Thing-Surprisingly-Extraordinary-Results/dp/1885167776) The author challenges the idea that multitasking is good and a balanced life is required. By focusing energy on one thing at a time we can find joy in our work and personal life. It’s a good read on this topic! Thanks, as always, Joanna!

  80. Ahhh, so convicted about this!! I think I convince myself that I always need my phone for safety reasons (what if there was an emergency?!) but then I end up on social media or checking email during non-work hours. I also am constantly switching between Instagram and email and Snapchat during the day rather than intentionally using those platforms. Eek!

  81. Summer says...

    Funny, because as I was reading this, I couldn’t quite remember how I got to CoJ. I was checking email, and then???

    • Bahahaha this.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaha

  82. I love that little cartoon! It’s so cute. I’ve found lately that my head is spinning from all the things I’ve had going on.. Just the last two or three days I decided to make an actual “To Do” list, on paper, and check one thing off at a time. If I’m writing, or working, I put the phone out of sight and close all other tabs on the screen. Helps keep me focused. It isn’t fool proof yet.. I’ve still managed to get up and grab the cell phone a time or two, but I’m getting better!

  83. Hahah, “Tabless Thursdays!” I would die! I have 15 tabs open right now, and I’m not willing to close any of them… :)

  84. Colleen says...

    Busted! I’m reading this while I drink my coffee, feed the baby, and check email. :-/

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      awww cute. say hello to that baby :)

  85. Alice Quin says...

    Yes I agree with this philosophy so much and wish it was easier to do IRL! I get restless doing one thing at a time even watching tv. But I think (hope) i will get better at it with some practice.