On the art of not-multitasking. And because it’s kind of my thing here at Roots, how it can help your relationship with food, movement, and your body.
Not-multitasking? Isn’t it a good idea to save time by doing more things at once? You’ve probably seen articles with headlines proclaiming that “no, it’s really not”, or maybe you’ve learned from experience.
And if you’re like me, you also probably know this: it’s a lot harder than it sounds.
I guess I’m a latecomer to the art of not-multitasking party. At least for the implementation part. I’m all too often stubborn to the point of ridiculousness–also something to work on–and so I learn most life lessons the slow, hard way. Life lessons like learning how to take breaks. Intentional rest is slowly but surely becoming a natural part of my day-to-day life. It’s one thing to rest after the work is done. Being intentional when I am busy working on projects or filling out applications, however, has been another beast.
For example, I’d always schedule work for myself during lunch. Sandwiches served with a side of biochemistry flashcards. Or, more accurately, biochem flashcards with a side of sandwiches.
I’d spend an otherwise enjoyable run mentally going through my schedule over and over and over. Or do yoga while wondering if I’d have to leave early to fill up the car with gas before my next lesson.
Not being intentional with each task or activity at a time left me dissatisfied with all of them. My mind was too preoccupied with what exactly I was supposed to be doing in two hours to enjoy my run. Likewise, trying to balance enjoying the extra sharp cheddar on my sandwich while reviewing polymers ended with me only doing a half-job on both.
In short, multitasking stunted my ability to tune in and listen to my body. When I tried to do eat or move while doing another thing, and my mind was swirling with 47,000 more things, I didn’t stop to think about whether I was hungry or full, or if moving my body was actually enjoyable. And if I was hungry and eating a delicious meal, and if moving was enjoyable, I didn’t have the undivided attention I needed to savor that.
So, here are a few things I think about to help me with the art of not-multitasking:
The Why. Why should I focus on one thing at a time? It allows me to fully engage. And when I’m fully engaged, I can work more productively, and understand more deeply.
The What. What does not-multitasking look like? It looks like being intentional. It looks like prioritizing and setting aside separate times for work and play and rest.
The How. This one’s the tricky one. It’s easy to say, “be intentional” and “focus on one thing.” But how? It looks different for everyone. But here are a few things…
These last few days, I’ve been trying out the pomodoro technique. Have you heard of it? You set a timer for 25 minutes and work on a task. One task. Meaning you don’t check your email or dust the top of your china cabinet. Unless that was the task you set out to accomplish, of course. Then you take a 5 minute break. Each 25 minute block is called a “pomodoro” and after 4 pomodoros, you take a 15-20 minute break.
I’ve really enjoyed it so far, and I’ve been more productive with my time. I like planning little things to do during my 5 minute breaks, like a short stretching or yoga session, or getting outside for a few minutes, or just sitting and drinking tea. It helps me actually take a break instead of thinking about the next thing I have to do or wondering if I was productive enough in my last session.
Also, if you didn’t know (I didn’t), pomodoro means “tomato” in Italian, and the technique got its name because Francisco Cirillo, the creator, used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato. I just think that’s the cutest thing ever.
Another thing you can do? Set aside time to eat without working. Without your phone, even. Try just one meal a day to start out. Of course, it doesn’t always happen. Some days are crazy and you end up eating granola bars in the car for dinner or scrolling through Pinterest while holding a plank. It’s okay. But when you can, eating without distraction makes the process more enjoyable and enables you to listen to your hunger and fullness cues better.
Same with movement. Whether you’re running, or swimming, or walking, or doing squats in your garage, not being preoccupied with allow you to tune in to how you’re feeling.
But most importantly, give yourself grace. Just like you can’t learn to paint a gorgeous mural or play Bruch’s Violin Concerto in G minor in a day, the art of not-multitasking takes time and practice. I’m not “there” and I won’t ever be in this life. But taking small steps towards not-multitasking–intentionally choosing to be present–has helped me immensely in developing a healthy, grateful relationship with food, exercise, and my body.
If this is something you’re working on too, I hope it does the same for you.
Linking up with Amanda @ running with spoons!