Slow-Down Fast: Singletasking

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As I said on Thursday, I’m trying to stay open as I prepare for this Lenten Slow-Down Fast. I’m willing to slow down in all areas, from my schedule to my spending; from my technology use to my thought patterns.As I simplify and slow down, my desire is to find the right pace for preparation—I want to slow down for the 40 days of Lent in order to walk through Maundy Thursday and Good Friday attentively, reflectively…and then to celebrate Easter Sunday with my whole self focused on Jesus Christ, the risen Savior.The “fast” will begin this week on Ash Wednesday, March 9, and end on Easter Sunday.I’ll be publishing Slow-Down Fast posts on Saturdays in conjunction with Cheryl’s Simplify theme. If you would like to link up, use the Simply Linked tool above.

Ann’s Slow-Down Fast Thoughts & Plans:

This is the last Saturday before the Slow-Down Fast officially begins. Ash Wednesday marks the start of the fast, so next Saturday I’ll be writing as someone who has lived it a few days. Lord willing, I should be writing from the “slow zone.”It won’t be a season of naps and knitting, however. While I will be slowing down and simplifying, I’ll also be continuing much of my daily routine, including my writing and editorial work as well as various home-management and educational tasks.As I’ve thought through my activities, I remembered some research about multitasking and how unproductive it really is. An article published on the American Psychological Association website explains:

Doing more than one task at a time, especially more than one complex task, takes a toll on productivity…Psychologists who study what happens to cognition (mental processes) when people try to perform more than one task at a time have found that the mind and brain were not designed for heavy-duty multitasking. Psychologists tend to liken the job to choreography or air-traffic control, noting that in these operations, as in others, mental overload can result in catastrophe.

Our minds, they say, aren’t actually doing two or more things at once; rather, they toggle between tasks. A. J. Jacobs, the guy who wrote A Year of Living Biblically, wrote an article for Real Simple magazine about multitasking. He explains what he learned in his research:

Multitasking makes us feel efficient. But it’s an insane delusion; it actually just slows our thinking down. Our brains can’t handle more than one higher cognitive function at a time. We may think we’re multitasking, but we’re really switch-tasking. Toggling between one task and another. First the phone, then the e-mail, then the phone, back to the e-mail. And each time you switch, there are a few milliseconds of start-up cost. The neurons need time to rev up.

His solution? A project, of course. He’s a project kind of guy, so he launched Operation Focus:

I pledge to go cold turkey from multitasking for a month in a quest to regain my brain and sanity. I’ll unitask―that is, perform one activity at a time. And just as important, I’ll stick with each thing for more than my average 30 seconds. I’ll be the most focused man in the world.

You can imagine how well that experiment went.Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that I figured out long ago that I don’t multitask well, yet I have been attempting it lately with my crazy schedule. During the slow-down fast, as I simplify where possible, I will seek to “singletask” or “unitask.” What I mean is that I will try to focus on one thing at a time for as long as possible before switching; in fact, I’ll try to see one thing through to completion before shifting to the next.Instead of a pinball life in which I shoot off every which way, flying off without pausing a beat, I prefer a focused and productive life. This is a challenge in our multitasking world, but I’m going to try. I feel like it will be a chance to practice being more attentive, helping me be less distracted throughout the day…and more open hearing to God’s voice.Only one thing is needed.One thing.Will you be joining me on the slow-down fast?

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  • Comments

    1. The subject of “undivided attention” has been on my mind for a while now. I see it as the opposite of multi-tasking. I guess it is the same as “single tasking”. It was just my theory that multi-tasking can’t really be good and conducive to productivity. I love that you have done the research for me and proven me right! lol!

      I will be fasting with you!

    2. I am a terrible multi-tasker. I thought I was the only female with that affliction. All of my girlfriends are so skilled at going a million miles a minute and accomplishing a bazillion things while I just plunk-plunk-plunk along.

      It’s very disheartening.

      But I’m glad to know that in the end my productivity will outlast those hares (of the tortoise and the hare fame).

      Really stopping in to say welcome home from the windy city and I hope you had a blast! You can tell me all about if you’re up for it some time. Envious of your travel, grateful for your friendship.

      Here’s to slowing down…

    3. Naps and knitting? That sounds divine. Are you sure you won’t be able to fit that in at all? Not even just a little bit?

    4. Although there is a darker side to Lent – the suffering of Christ, I am glad for the reminder to slow down, simplify, and clean out our inside life.

    5. Hi Ann, I like the idea of focusing, being present to what is, fasting from scattered-tasking. I’ll bet inner rest results…

      Blessed Lent to you and thanks for stopping in and commenting :)
      Jodi

    6. It’s taken me a few days to get here, though I’ve had the tab open since Saturday, but the darn computer kept losing it, so then I’d have to reopen. I love the Slow Down fast, and have been thinking of it more frequently in the last week. I believe we must slow down to create the kind of margin in our lives that makes room for us to hear God’s voice… maybe there’s a post in there somewhere… :)

    7. I have practically done the same by learning rajyoga meditation.
      http://www.brahmakumaris.com/treasures/150.html

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    2. […] around hurried and scattered, distracted from Him. That’s all. I just want to offer Jesus my undivided attention. I’m also willing to do what He calls me to do, and I don’t want to miss that in an […]

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