Last time I talked about the blessing and curse of multitasking. The core takeaway is that multitasking is often a very valuable skill that many of us have put considerable time cultivating in our daily lives. But (and this is a big but) multitasking is not always valuable for every task. And (and this is a big and) it is often very difficult to turn multitasking off to effectively get something done without being distracted by the “joy” (scourge?) of multitasking. So, the question we were left with was: how do I turn it off? How do you take the skill of multitasking, something you’ve honed into habit, and turn it off when it isn’t needed (and is actually harmful)? This is a question I’ve been exploring for a number of weeks while working on a huge (and I mean HUGE) project each and every day for the past month. Multitasking actually gets in the way of completing this project, but I find that I’m addicted to it. Something needed to change.
There is a certain television personality (with a very entertaining cooking/science show) who speaks ill of tools with only one use in the kitchen. Tools with many uses are heralded for their qualities: space-saving, multiple uses, generally sturdier, etc., while tools with singular uses are relegated to the garbage (and hopefully never purchased in the first place). It turns out that certain single use tools are valuable, though, because they do something so much better than the alternatives. Since my aim was writing (and writing lots) I needed to figure out something that only did one thing. Computers, while excellent for fast writing at the keyboard, also do e-mail, browsing, reading, music, upgrading, photos, games, etc. etc. etc. What did I do? I got a nice notebook, a nice pen, and a nice chair. I turned off all of my computers and I wrote till I was done. What it lacks in complexity it makes up for in usefulness. There was nothing to multitask (although I caught myself numbering the pages absent-mindedly at one point). So, with nothing to multitask I did the one thing I could do: write. Lack of focus got you down? Find a single use tool and use it till you’re done.