The Luxury of Doing “Just” One Thing At A Time

Raise your hand if you have at least three windows open other than this blog, or other than this blog post in your google reader.

Raise your hand if you are currently a) listening to music, b) watching TV, c) eating or d) haphazardly doing some other activity.

At this moment (while simultaneously writing this post) I am also “watching” the Vampire Diaries, drinking seltzer, and have four tabs open on my computer – inbox, twitter, Facebook, Medicinal Marzipan stats.

Hello my name is Mara, and I have a problem with filling up every single second of possible silence.

When I am in class: I am making to-do lists, consulting my calendar, creating business plans.

When I am falling asleep: I am thinking about what I should do tomorrow, planning my breakfast, worrying about my wedding.

When I am hanging out with my friends: I am checking my phone on my way to the bathroom, worrying about whether or not my last post was well received.

I have the terrible habit of chronic multi-tasking.

When I was in college, I had friends who loved to “hang out and study.” They just lovedto meet up at the library with their coffee, and intermittently talk and then study and then giggle and you get the idea.  I have always hated the idea of “hanging out” while doing work – much preferring to get shit done and then relax completely.



And then I created a blog – a little world that never sleeps, and where there is always more to be done.

The reality is this: you can only do one thing WELL at a time.

I am going to repeat that, because it is extremely important:

You can only do one thing, and do that one thing well, at a time.

It is one thing to give yourself time and space in silence in order to process your emotions, to meditate and create room for yourself. That will make you feel better.

But? We all have to start somewhere, so perhaps, just for today, we’ll start by not spending every second of the day multi-tasking. Perhaps, today, we can begin to carve out some space for ourselves by closing all of the additional windows when we are writing online or taking a break from our smartphones when we are lucky to be in the company of someone else.

Today, I am going to make an extra effort to remain present – with my loved ones, with myself, with all of you, with my clients, and in my classes.

{Source: via marzipan on Pinterest}

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20 thoughts on “The Luxury of Doing “Just” One Thing At A Time”

  1. It’s true, we are spread pretty thin, out attention taken by so many things. I try to clean house while chatting with people on MSN sometimes and that just does, not, work haha. I either wind up rudely ignoring the person while I clear furiously, or it takes me 3 hours to do what usually takes 1. So now I turn everything off but the music to tidy by…

  2. It is my intention this year to do one thing at a time! I can’t say it’s been working out super well but I am more mindful of it. It feels so good, too. I think this is something we could all benefit from. Thank you for being so honest and open about this.

  3. Hi! I found you from your post on today. I loved what you had to say about loving your body. And this post also speaks to me. I had three goals that I wanted to focus on, but I was always getting distracted by the TV or music or making elaborate meals. Then I made a bunch of New Year’s resolutions. Then I started a blog and wanted to start posting every day right away, and now…nothing is getting done.

    • Hi Rae, Welcome to MM! It sounds like you are taking on… a lotttttt of stuff. What were the three goals that you started with? Is it possible to start making changes less rapidly? Like, try to introduce one new idea/goal/task/project a month – once you’ve already gotten some of the others under your belt?

      • So they weren’t really goals as much as activities: running, writing, and studying Chinese. But I am preparing for a half-marathon and a big standardized Chinese test. And writing…I love writing, but I feel like I’ve been chasing my tail. And a friend suggested I resume blogging cause writing is writing, and blogging is at least more goal-oriented than anything else I was doing. But my boyfriend and I are also trying to start a business project, and I like to crochet, I like to watch TV, I like to go out with friends…but really, very little is getting done, but I am always stressed out.

  4. I raised my hand for the first one, but not the second…one source of media at a time! LOL But still, I very much relate to this post, especially when I am in front of my computer. My iPhone? Not so much. But then again, I’m old(er than you).

  5. Ah, so true, but if I follow that advice I wouldn’t be reading your blog, now would I? Yes, I am eating breakfast, checking on my sick child and reading style blogs. It has become such a habit, I hardly even notice I’m doing it.

    • Ha! Well, Catherine, that might very well be true. I know that it’s not always possible to take on only one task at a time (ESPECIALLY when you are a parent), but it can provide our brains a much-needed break when do it occasionally.

  6. I hear you, Mara! Oh, especially the part about blogging. Unfortunately, even for those of us who totally know and realize that “multi-tasking” is really “getting shit done at a much slower pace than normal”, the way the internet is structured makes it insanely difficult not to multi-task – you have to go out of your way to avoid it. Yuck. This is really something I’m working on, too. Good luck in your journey of uni-tasking. 😉

    • Thanks Michelle! It is so haaaaaard. I mean, right now I have three windows open. BUT three is better than six, so I’m going to go on ahead and call that a success 😉

  7. Starting a biz really put this in focus for me. I crashed and burned early on because I was trying to do too much at once, and I definitely learned my lesson from that. I’m still working on the execution of said lessons, but it’s coming along. Putting things in place like “check email twice a day, respond once” have been a huge help! I’ve found that checking in with myself and figuring out how I feel doing various things lets me know what does and doesn’t work. It’s a long road to multi-tasker recovery, but it’s possible!

  8. I am completely and totally incapable of multi-tasking, a recent characteristic that seems to have reared its head sometime during college. Personally, I like just how intense my focus is when it comes to whatever task may be at hand, but it has its price… The love of my life is an obsessive multi-tasker, who constantly NEEDS to be over-stimulated at any given time. It’s almost like that Mitch Hedberg joke about having too much attention span! Whenever I do something like, say… Watch a movie, or read a book, or make a drawing, or drive I need complete and total focus for that task or else I LOSE MY SHIT, which is an unfortunate side effect that I have been countering by calmly telling people ‘please do not bother me, I am busy. I love you very much but I need my space to do this thing.’ My boyfriend, however, can not stand the silence. Whenever I specifically set aside the time to maybe watch an episode of Community together that we’d been saving for when our schedules line up, or we go for a rare dinner out… He spends the whole time also on his phone/nook/book/computer/talking during any thing we may be watching for the first time making it impossible for me to hear what’s going on since I can only follow one auditory stream at a time and his voice is more booming than dynamite… Because I am so single-minded, it bothers and offends me that he won’t, no…. CAN’T give his whole and total focus to me while we are doing an activity together, and it bothers him that it bothers me but… he just doesn’t get it. We’ve had conversations about how it’s irrational for me to be jealous of his laptop which, yes, I guess that’s sort of what it is but not entirely. If you are splitting your focus, you are not experiencing the same thing as the other people experiencing it. True, everyone sees the world in their own way and therefore, every moment will differ slightly depending on your perspective but…. While I aim to remember a nice, calm, quiet evening where I watch a badass Kung Fu movie while cuddling up to my boyfriend, I can’t help thinking that we’re both going to remember the gif of some dogs sliding down a hill that he found on reddit instead… and for entirely different reasons.

    Do your loved ones a favor-make them the only thing in the world you need at least once a week. It won’t make up for the other thousands of times during the week that they feel second (or third or fourth or fifth) to everything else you fill yourself up with while in their presence, but it’ll certainly help to ground them and really believe that they are the one thing in the world you could never, ever live without.

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