Challenge of the Week: Singletasking

I’m an inveterate multitasker. At work, more often than I’d like, I end up eating lunch in front of my computer. After work, it’s not unusual for my laptop to be open while my smartphone is in hand and a movie plays in the background.

Multitasking: watching a movie, editing a photo, surfing the web, and checking Instagram.

Multitasking: watching a movie, editing a photo, surfing the web, and checking Instagram.

And I’m not alone: multitasking is endemic to the Internet Age. How many of you are working or surfing the internet while eating breakfast, watching TV, or in a meeting?

This past week, I decided to set myself a challenge: stop multitasking. At the beginning of the week, I focused on two types of multitasking in particular – eating while using my computer, and using more than 1 electronic device (computer, smartphone, TV) at a time. But I also started paying attention to other ways I was multitasking and tried to cut those out. For instance, I found myself tempted to catch up on correspondence or get other work done while in meetings.

So how’d the week go?

Eliminating multitasking while eating was the best part. Taking a real lunch at work gave me a chance to catch up with colleagues and then get back to work feeling a little bit refreshed. I also wasn’t mindlessly snacking – because if I did grab a snack, I knew I had to step away from whatever I was doing. I enjoyed catching up with my husband over dinner every night. Some mornings we hung out during breakfast, but that usually wrapped up quickly, and I missed my morning routine of checking email and reading blogs. But I didn’t miss getting caught up in work before I headed out for the day!

My reduced use of the computer at night was a good thing overall – I got to bed earlier and felt like I had relaxed a bit more. I didn’t get caught up in late-night nothingness (like mindless internet surfing) at all this week. But I missed being able to sort through photos or catch up with online friends while watching a silly movie. And somehow, having something in the background makes it easier to tackle things like blog posts. I haven’t put up a post since last Saturday! :(

I was more mentally present in meetings, which was a good thing. But the amount of time I spent in meetings felt more oppressive, and I wanted to get a lot more work done. This week was trickier because I actually did have more meetings and less uninterrupted time than usual.

The big thing was that I was more aware of what I was doing – and not doing – this week. Going forward, I’ll go back to some multitasking but try to be more conscious in deciding when to multitask – rather than just falling into the habit of doing it!

When do you find yourself multitasking?

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8 thoughts on “Challenge of the Week: Singletasking

  1. The question may need to be when DON’t I multitask… It’s happening right now haha. Love that you did this though and your findings are interesting. These days it’s almost frowned upon not to multitask but we could all use a lesson in stopping to appreciate individual moments. Thanks for the reminder Kate!



    • Ha, that’s probably the right question for me as well! Though I’m continuing to break for lunch and dinner now. :)

      Bringing up the social pressure to multitask is a good point. I felt *bad* for always trying to focus on one thing at a time! But multitasking can disrupt critical thinking – so it’s a handicap when you have to think deeply about something. Shame that we often forget that and get caught up in the idea that we should tackle many things at once.


  2. Great topic! As a person who actually remembers life before smart phones and computers, sometimes I still wonder what is so urgent that it can’t wait until we have had breakfast, or lunch, or are finished with whatever we are doing. When did our electronic interactions become more necessary than our personal ones? Good luck with more relaxing!


    • Thanks Anne! It is pretty crazy how the electronic world has invaded our lives. Though at least with breakfast, reading the paper while eating has long been a part of people’s routines – perhaps surfing the web isn’t all that different.


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