reclaiming uni-tasking

The woman at the cafe gave me my coffee free this morning – it’s so lovely to have you back, she said. It’s only been ten days, but it really does feel like i’ve been away for ever.

Easter in the prison went really well – beyond all expectations. We didn’t overthink it this year, and just let it unfold. It was beautiful. On holy saturday Jenny brought in platters of bread, cheese and grapes – we decided that we would celebrate god’s presence in our hell by having lunch together. One woman just sat looking at the food, she couldn’t bring herself to eat it, and after a while she whispered to those of us around her, ‘I think I’m in heaven’.

I had another of those conversations last week with someone who insinuated that we were doing something virtuous or sacrificial or brave by being in the prison over easter. Really, I’m not that generous – I do it because it makes sense of my world in a way that nothing else does.

I left the prison each day and went home to pack boxes, moving house the day after easter. The new place is gorgeous but currently internet free. It’s meant that I’ve started reading the newspaper again, instead of reading news on line – it feels like a reclaimed luxury, and like I know stuff again about the world! There was a great article hidden in yesterday’s paper about the fallacies of multi-tasking, particularly as it relates to creative, non-linear work. The article gave all the common sense reasons why multi-tasking is damaging: when we multi-task we ‘do by rote’, disabling our capacity to reflect and change what we do, which is of course the most critical part of double or triple loop learning; things take longer when we multi-task and we lose a sense of accomplishment when a task is finished because our mind groups all current tasks together. The kicker was the line that talked about how we all think we multi-task better than anyone else, but really we’re deluding ourselves… and worse, multi-tasking is addictive, feeding into our desire for constant stimulation.

I’d like to get back in the habit of uni-tasking. I’m going to ask myself, when i begin a task, whether it’s something that’s worth focussing on to the exclusion of all else, and if so i’ll create an environment of singular focus and non-stimulation in order to do that. I think that means I have to not be afraid of being bored. I also suspect it’s going to be much harder than i imagine…


  1. Kel

    nice to have you back here too 🙂
    hope it is one of the things that will remain in your attempt to uni-task

  2. Sarah

    do you know something i’ve found, in terms of the multi tasking, is that the more i fill my time with, the less space i have to actually achieve anything creative – might just be the way i work, i don’t think there’s any one rule of multi- or uni- tasking that will suit everyone of course, but i crave space and constantly fight against our cultural indoctrination of success-driven obsession with busyness … just because i’m taking space and perhaps appear to be doing nothing, doesn’t mean i am actually doing nothing – more likely than not, i am creating or getting ready to create – good to have you back in this creative space, Cheryl, may the new home nurture your rest and creativity :o)

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