Monotasking

Fri 6/12/2009

It seems like people are always talking about the importance of "multitasking." I remember when I was in my last semester at Pratt, a bunch of the teachers were warning us that once we were out in the "real world" we'd have to be able to work on multiple projects at the same time, probably while holding down a day job, and taking care of ourselves, etc. etc.

They were right, and I've experienced that hectic feeling of trying to keep a lot of balls in the air at once (though I don't think it's necessarily any harder than trying to do all the course work for seven classes in one semester!) I'm always working on my comics, and sometimes I have illustration assignments or coloring work on top of that and maybe a class I'm teaching, so I HAVE to multitask. You know, like while my dinner is cooking in the toaster oven, I'm inking a page of comics, while listening to the news, while thinking about the composition of an illustration and jotting down notes for email responses which I'll type out as I eat my dinner.

Multitasking is easy. There is too much to get done each day! It's either sink or swim, so you just jump in and start getting as much done as you can, and usually that means doing a few different things at the same time.

The HARD thing (or at least for ME, lately) is MONOTASKING. At this point, I'm so used to doing multiple things at once, it has actually become difficult to just do ONE thing. As most of you probably know, I split my time up into "work" and "break" blocks. But these days, it seems like I have so many activities that fall into both categories, I can't figure out which one I should be doing when the time comes. Or when I do choose one, I'm still thinking about the others.

It's almost like when I pick something to work on, I have to focus on it completely and pretend the rest of my life doesn't exist. I have to create a sort of forcefield (see above) to keep everything else at bay, otherwise I sit there trying to work, but really my mind is going "I should be answering those emails! I should be working on my website! Or on that top secret project!" etc. etc.

And then the REAL trick, is to sort of have this monotasking SLOT, so that you can interchange different activities throughout the day, but you only focus on one at a time. If I can get that down, I feel like things would be a lot easier! Am I just being crazy? Can anyone else relate to this feeling???

11 comments on this entry

I feel like this ALL THE TIME. It sucks because I am only giving part of my attention to anything. The worst is at night because I haven't yet figured out how to multitask in my sleep so my brain just runs in circles until it spins out.

Jason Jun13

I'm the opposite, I can't do more than one thing at once at all. I'm like a laser, I shine real bright on one spot at a time, burn through it, and move on.

Matt - I envy you!

Jason - I'm glad I'm not the only one!

Alec Jun13

I do both poorly!

Joe Jun13

Yeah everything I read about productivity on the internet (my favorite way to slack off is to read productivity sites, of course!) says that multitasking is a myth - even when you're doing 10,000 things at once you're really doing a lot of things for very small amounts of time. I try so hard to focus - I think that meditating helps a lot b/c its time where you "practice focusing" if you know what I mean.

Alec, have you read Getting_Things_Done? I think you'd appreciate it. This conundrum you have is basically the exact issue he addresses (the goal is to complete tasks, not simply work on them). I don't know if you've ever listened to Merlin Mann's 43 Folders podcast, which is awesome for productivity junkies, but this 2.5 minute episode would be of interest to you.
http://www.43folders.com/2005/10/20/43f-podcast-the-myth-of-multi-tasking

John Jun14

John, I haven't read that book yet, but a lot of people have recommended it to me. I should check it out! Thanks for the link to the podcast too... Sounds like it will be right up my alley!

Alec Jun14

I find relief in the monotasking I've been able to do a bit lately. The relief comes from the feeling that "this is the time alloted for this task and this is all I have to do." This means, of course, that in order to do this thing in front of me well, completely and genuinely I GET TO let go of all those other tasks and burdens and demands and responsibilities. So I encourage you to look at this one task, every time, with a sigh of relief because it's all you have to do in that moment. And maybe you'll find that when all those other should be's and could be's leave your mind as you relax into your art that an explosion of creativity and peace will come.

L Jun15

Thank you Lindsay. That's a wonderful way to look at the situation!

Alec Jun15

I 2nd the Getting Things Done recommendation. It's not a program to sell you stuff (calendar refills, etc) it's a way to help you make your own 'repository' or list of projects and next-actions to complete those goals. If you trust you've listed it, it's "out of your head" (theoretically) freeing the 'now' - even in 2 minute bursts - to really move forward the task at hand. Check it out. David Allen has given some talks (some on youtube) you could listen to as you work. Audible has his book, too.

Bruce Jun16

I've just recently read GTD also. Just wanted to mention that it is available as an audiobook (which I took out from my local library). I don't know if the Charles Schulz Library stocks audiobooks or not. They probably should right? I enjoyed it and got a lot out of it.

Cam Jun16

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