A Simple Trick to Kick Your Multi-Tasking Habit

Boone Pickens perhaps said it best: When you are hunting elephants, don’t get distracted chasing rabbits.

This week’s rabbit: Stranger Things.

I’m not a TV watcher by nature, but every now and then, a show will grip my immediate community so tightly that it becomes a focal point for conversation after conversation, theories and recaps and findings passed around the dinner table with the mashed potatoes.

The show sounded fascinating enough, even without the 80’s factor and the Indiana plot and of course Winona’s hair. And this is precisely how I wound up staying up waywayway past my bedtime last Saturday night hitting Play on Season 2.

I have been searching for pockets of time to hit Play ever since.

Earlier this week, Bee was preoccupied with Halloween prep in her room and Scout had gone down for a late nap. The pocket of time was there, but it also wasn’t. I needed to make dinner.

So I sat my laptop on the counter and chopped cauliflower while watching Joyce Byers trash her own house again, and of course, it wasn’t twenty minutes before a pot of lemongrass broth was bubbling onto the stove and Scout was awake and Bee came in asking for a stapler (never a good sign) and I still hadn’t figured out where the heck Hopper was.

I turned off the show, realizing there were enough rabbits for me to chase without adding a virtual one to the mix.

And so, a small reminder for myself, courtesy of this simple trick my therapist friend shares with her patients:

Pay attention to your hands.

It’s the perfect cure for multi-tasking, she says. When you’re writing an email, watch your fingers on the keyboard. When you’re folding laundry, watch your hands sort through the whites. When you’re at the park with your kid, pay attention to your hands pushing them in the swing, brushing a leaf from their hair, holding their bike helmet as they run wild in the grass.

When we do (or think of doing) a million things at once, we do them less well. When we multitask, we’re teaching our brain to distract itself and things just take infinitely longer, our fuse growing infinitely shorter.

But there’s something inherently lovely about single-tasking, about focusing on just one thing at a time for as long as we’re able. And it turns out, we need only to retrain our brain with what we already have available: our hands.

It’s a small trick that snaps your mind back to the present and – better yet? – preserves energy for your next task.

(Like hitting Play on Stranger Things the very second those littles are asleep.)

Tell me: what small steps are you exploring these days? I’d love to hear!


p.s. These are a series of small steps that will (hopefully) provide one giant leap to greater things. Not for mankind, but for me, and perhaps for you, which will always be good enough in my book. More here.


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