I am an excellent multi-tasker.
The drawback to this is that I have forgotten how to do just one thing at a time.
My mind works best when engaged on multiple levels. I catch up on email and make to-do lists while walking the dog. I clean and organize while watching television. I brainstorm while in the bath. I am always planning something (a project, an essay, a blog post, a photo shoot, a lesson plan) while physically doing something else. I catch up on Facebook while in the line at the supermarket. I grade while students are working. I read a book if I’m early to an appointment. I get restless, actually, if I am unable to be productive. One of my greatest joys was discovering that my phone would sync with my kindle so that I always had a book with me to read.
This is fantastic in terms of professional productivity. I am nearly always accessible. I often respond promptly to emails and texts and Facebook messages. (Phone calls not so much because I’m terrible with the phone.) I never miss a deadline. I am often juggling several projects at the same time – probably while also doing laundry.
This is horrible in terms of my emotional sanity.
As I near the end of a year in which I…
Taught 22 courses
Published 4 books
Took 3 classes during my 1st term as a PhD student
Wrote 8 articles and/or art reviews
Organized 3 photo shoots
Started a blog
Redid my website
Revamped/relaunched my public persona
Filmed 14 videos
Played 1 gig
Wrote 1 novel
Finished 1 film analysis book
…I realize that while the joys of multitasking may be multiple, the penalties are pretty harsh, as well. I am exhausted and scattered, ungrounded and distracted.
I have to relearn how to do just one thing at a time.
I have to learn to leave my phone at home.
I need to remind myself what it feels to turn it all off. To be quiet. To be still.
And I need to discover the clarity and precision that comes when your mind is only thinking about one thing at a time.
The incredible things about the Internet is that we have the world at our fingertips. And the incredible thing about smartphones is that we have the world at our fingertips all the time.
And that is addictive and thrilling and marvelous. It’s very hard to tell the world that you’re not interested. That you’re not available.
But I need to figure out how to do it.
I am devoting this upcoming holiday to more books, more art, more walking, more stillness, and less technology.
I need a digital detox.
Who’s with me?