too much multi-tasking can actually be too much

I’m coming to the conclusion that too much multi-tasking can be a bad thing.

Let me try to explain.

When I was working full-time I went all day….skipping from one thing to the next. It was unusual to go for 15 minutes on a single task uninterrupted by an “urgent” phone call, email or knock on the door. Then there were the texts, tweets, FB updates, instagrams that I chose to litter through my day as well. If I had to get something bigger done than say, writing an email, I did it in a highly concentrated space of time and more often than not, at the very nearly last minute. That’s how it worked. Busy. Busy all the time. The more people who knew it the better.

And then I stopped that.

Stop the glorification of busy


And over the last 8 months I have realised that all that busy-ness, multi-tasking, jumping from one thing to the next, thinking between 1 and infinity steps ahead and constantly being “on” was perhaps not the healthiest thing in the world for my concentration.

Because now I find, that my concentration is low. I still want to flick from one thing to the next. 10 minutes on one task is often 6 minutes too many. I’m always looking for a distraction. And thank you social media for providing that distraction. Don’t get me wrong, I love social media. It’s provided me with a channel out of the isolation that can come with living in the regions. I’ve met many awesome people who I think of as friends. I’ve even met some of them in person. I hope to continue to do that. But, in terms of finishing an assignment or thinking deeply for any length of time I appear to have lost the plot. I find it a challenge to get into the flow state that I’ve read about all over the inter webs. Poo poo positive psychology all you like (and frequently I do) but that flow state sounds pretty good in terms of getting stuff done. Being focused. Being attentive. Being mindful to the task at hand. Not watching the clock. And so on and so forth.

So I’ve been thinking about it and watching to see when I might be approaching the flow state. I’ve come up with three activities so far:

1. Swimming. I started swimming regularly in November last year. If I follow the black line up and down the pool time can pass without me feeling like I’m counting the seconds until I’ve finished. It doesn’t happen all the time but when it does it’s like meditation.

2. Practising the violin. An hour can go by and I don’t even notice. I’m fully immersed in the activity. It’s amazing.

3. Reading for fun. Despite what my goodreads profile would have you believe I’m reading for fun more than I have in many a year. This does causes a slight problem because going to bed at 10:30 becomes going to sleep at midnight which means weariness in the morning, but I love the fact that I actually want to read again that I don’t care. (I lost my reading mojo there for quite some time).

So my goal is to continue to cultivate the flow state.

What about you?


5 Responses to “too much multi-tasking can actually be too much”

  1. Cath says:

    I agree with you; there are times when the ability to hunker down and concentrate is vital. I think open plan offices do workers a disservice too. I like your idea of swimming regularly, it sounds so relaxing. Good on you for taking care of yourself.

  2. Sam says:

    I recently started swimming again too. When I was younger, I’d have to sing songs to myself to stop myself getting bored doing laps, but now I find that swimming allows me to empty my brain almost completely and just focus on nothing but trying to move my body through the water in the most efficient way possible. I am pretty sure that earplugs help too as hordes of screaming kids in squad is definitely not conducive to the flow state!

    I’m also a reader for pleasure and know exactly what you mean about that kind of flow. Poetry and short stories can help with the sleep thing!

  3. Wendy Davis says:

    thanks @ Cath….yes I think we all need to take the time to look after ourselves…has become increasingly challenging as the world moves faster hasn’t it?

    Hi @ Sam….I find the same thing with swimming…if it’s going well…I’m really not thinking about anything…my challenge has been the water aerobics class in the other pool…their favourite music seems to be a good blast of Little Richard!

  4. Alisa says:

    Thanks for sharing Wendy. I too, have been practicing ‘one thing at a time’. It allows me to be more present with the task in front of me. This method of working can even be more productive in the long run. However there are times when I struggle to do this, such as commenting on this post while I’m collating a report at the same time! 🙂

  5. Wendy Davis says:

    It takes practice doesn’t it! The last part of your comment definitely made me smile 🙂

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