Medley

Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 20

Leo Babauta – USA

Single-tasking and productivity

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“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand.
The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

Alexander Graham Bell

Many of us grew up in the age of multi-tasking, where you couldn’t call yourself productive if you weren’t a good multi-tasker. We learned to always have several balls in the air at once – while writing something on the computer, we had a phone call going, we were writing something on a notepad or paper form, we were reviewing documents, sometimes even holding a meeting at the same time. That’s the productive worker, the effective executive.

When email and Instant Messaging and blogs and the rest of the Internet came along, multi-tasking went haywire. Now we’re expected to do 10 things on the computer at once, still with the paper, phone, and meetings going, along with texting and Blackberry Messaging. Multi-tasking is no longer about being productive – it’s a way of living.

It’s not a sane way of living, however, and it’s not necessarily the most effective way of working either. A few notes on why:

•    Multi-tasking is less efficient, due to the need to switch gears for each new task, and the switch back again.

•     Multi-tasking is more complicated, and thus more prone to stress and errors.

•    Multi-tasking can be crazy, and in this already chaotic world, we need to reign in the terror and find a little oasis of sanity and calm.

•    Our brains can really only handle one thing at a time, and so we get so used to switching between one thing and another with our brains that we program them to have a short attention span. This is why it’s so hard to learn to focus on one thing at a time again.

A single-tasking life

Imagine instead, a single-tasking life. Imagine waking and going for a run, as if running were all you do. Nothing else is on your mind but the run, and you do it to the very best of your abilities. Then you eat, enjoying every flavorful bite of your fresh breakfast of whole, unprocessed foods. You read a novel, as if nothing else in the world existed. You do your work, one task at a time, each task done with full focus and dedication. You spend time with loved ones, as if nothing else existed.

This is summed up very well by something Charles Dickens once wrote, “He did each single thing as if he did nothing else.” This is a life lived fully in the moment, with a dedication to doing the best you can in anything you do – whether that’s a work project or making green tea.

If you live your life this way, by this single principle, it will have tremendous effects:

•    Your work will become more focused.

•    You will become more effective at your work.

•    You’ll become better at anything you do.

•    Your time alone will be of better quality.

•    Your time with your family will be much more meaningful

•    Your reading will have less distractions.

•    You’ll lose yourself in anything you deem worthy enough of your time
and attention.


To be continued

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