Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Slow Project: monotasking

{Credit where it is due - I'm hijacking Ellie of petalplum and her Slow Project here}

When I wrote about my attraction to the Slow Food movement a few weeks ago, I came away with a sense of cognitive dissonance.  

I pay plenty of lip service to the slow life -  slow foodslow cloth,  slow fashion,  slow transport. I have chosen to be 'slow' at this stage of life by refusing to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities with the main gig - parenting.

But I'm still an adrenaline junkie, and I love to multitask.

I guess the adrenaline habit is hard to kick. Particularly because our mainstream culture is all about thriving on adrenaline. We're addicted to:

 instant gratification

I feel that I ought to be 'using my time well' (which means doing more than one thing at a time). I parent, cook, craft, ride the bike, have 'me time', socialise and blog with a sense of urgency, as though I'm lagging behind somehow or going to miss a deadline. I try to do them all simultaneously. I'm always looking for ways to get a bit of blog-post-reading done whilst paying bills via iPhone whilst pushing the boys on the swings whilst chatting to my mother whilst jotting down the shopping list and designing the next quilt. WHY?

There is. No. Deadline.

Furthermore, it seems that multitasking may well be a flawed concept altogether. I like this quote from Carl Honore, author of In Praise Of Slow:

"The latest neuro-scientific research suggests what most of us already suspect: that the human brain is not very good at multitasking. Sure there are a few simple or routine tasks we can perform at the same time, but as soon as you have to engage the brain, you really need to focus on one activity at a time. Much of what passes for multitasking is nothing of the sort: it is sequential toggling between activities.  
Changing attitudes is hard because our culture is marinated in the notion that doing more things at once is somehow deeply modern, efficient and fulfilling. But change is possible."

Anyway, I'm taking action. Well, inaction, more precisely. For the past few weeks I've been monotasking. 

I've stopped checking the phone incessantly. I've stopped switching the TV on for the kids so I can 'get something done', and trying to either get them involved or accept the fact that it is just not going to get done right now (and does it really matter?). I've opted to either read, OR blog, OR sew of an evening, instead of trying to do all three in front of the telly. In fact, it has taken ten days to write this blog post, because I've let myself be interrupted and let go of the artificial, self-imposed deadlines. Does anyone care? No. I'm attempting to redefine my ideas of a successful day... did we get some sun and air? Get appropriately fed and watered? Do something creative? Hang out with some other people? Have a good cuddle? Relate well or at least give it a red-hot go?

That might all sound a bit sickly-sweet and like I should go and polish my earth-mother halo (in a mindful, meditative, living-in-the-present, enjoying-the-journey kind of way).

And frankly, I'm feeling so darned good right now, I just might.

(Insert gratuitous shots of kidlets in 'Hudson', wearing their Dillpickle Beanies)


  1. Now, those are some brilliant thoughts you have there! Time to get my priorities right. I often find myself rushing when really.... There. Is. No. Deadline.

  2. You know, you are so right. I love what you said...There is. No. Deadline.

    Its easy to forget that and try to get a million things done in the one day. But I think it I worked on one thing at a time, it may just make me a far less stressed person!

    Great post Gina.


  3. true true true. I'm totally inspired by your slow project - way of thinking, living, being...

    SLOW down.

    I always remember - before I had kids I used to walk so quickly, rush rush about. Then I got pregnant and couldn't walk very fast at all; just waddled everywhere. That was such a wonderful thing - to be forced to physically be slowed down in that way. But now, I find myself some days trying to do too much - or at least plan too much (and be upset or annoyed at myself if I don't get it all done).

    So - while I'm a do-it-all-at-once Gemini, I'm going to try as much as I can to do one thing at a time.
    {Which means - turn the computer off and talk to my kids. Then make dinner. Then sit and eat dinner. And not check my email, or favourite blogs ten times in between!}.


  4. I'm crap at multitasking. Monotasking sounds good to me.

  5. This reminds me of what Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker wrote about the iPad, which is that it's designed for surfing the net on the couch while you watch tv. Ahh, I miss having a laptop and being able to surf & watch at the same time.

    I find it incredibly difficult to do one thing at a time. If I'm watching tv I *must* be working on some hand sewing. If I don't have something I can do while on the couch, my eyes restlessly roam the room planning what I'm going to jump up and tidy away during the next ad break. I am not a restful person.

    It's going to be interesting being on 'maternity leave' and trying to slow down a bit. At least having a new baby gives me a default task while watching telly - breastfeeding! I hope Jack will let me watch my new Daria box set rather than Thomas & Friends on repeat.

    What was my point again? I give up.

  6. You are so right. I too am trying to multitask all the time. And, to be honest and maybe even worse than that, I kind of feel quilty all the time. Because when I do one thing, something else doesn't get done. Even when I am trying to do three things at one time, there are always other things not getting done. So I feel like I fail a little. And I know I am not. Rationally I know. But still. Somewhere inside of me is the feeling that I SHOULD do it all. Now. It's so stupid.

    Thanks for reminding me to take it slow. To enjoy the moment and not think about all the other things that should be done right now so I forget to see and enjoy what's right now, right here.

  7. I think now that I have twins I am definately accepting that I can't be the uber mulitasking maniac I usually strive to be ... I am trying to be a slow monotasking maniac instead ... I mean no one cares if we don't get out of pjs until 2pm anyway, right?

  8. I've been thinking a lot along these lines lately, and even made a commitment to myself to stop multi-tasking. The fact that it's so hard gives me pause. But it really is so rewarding.Must go polish that halo.

    ps- It's Rach from Mogantosh here. Hacking into Keiths account.

  9. I said to a friend recently that I'm not very good at multitasking, and she said "NOBODY IS, IT'S A CON!". However as a woman of my generation and era, I actually find it really hard to let it go- and it's good to read that being acknowledged, thanks!

    I try to learn from a lesson my husband failed to learn, when our Bug was looking at a leaf while we were on our way to a cafe. Mister Bell picked up the Bug to hurry him along and was inadvertently kicked in the testicles. We had to leave him behind sitting on the path as we waleked on with the leaf!

  10. I love reading your blog.

  11. There was an article in the paper about it last weekend and I have been thinking about it since then. I have actually tried to stop doing it - multitasking I mean- and it has made my life easier... practicing mindfulness...... it is a hard one but when I stop trying to do something when I am also trying to parent it actually means I don't get so frustrated.

  12. I constantly feel like I'm running out of time and have to get everything done, and I don't even have a family to take care of (only Houdini dog and Bastard cat).
    It's just so hard to stop that mindset as we were raised in that generation where we were told that we could do it all and have it all. They just forgot to tell us about all the sacrifices we'd have to make to get there.

  13. What you are attempting seems simple ... but it's not that easy. At least not for the likes of me.
    Having grown up in this fast moving world, slowing down is hard.
    Right now I should be reading my daughter a bed time story ... not writing this comment.
    Oops ... seeya!!

  14. Slow is the way to go... People living fast pass busy lives miss all the good stops!! Why buy a cake down the road when you can make one at home with kids? Even if it's a packet mix...hehe. Routine is one thing but doing everything to try and stay on top only creates a bigger mess an really nothing gets done properly. I have moved away from blog land because it takes up time which I would really rather spend with Bubble and Bear. My phone isn't a problem it's my iPad now lol... I could spend hours just cruising around the internet and doing ficnd a words... Moo likes to say " Stop... Think... Do..." it's a good moto don't you think?...

    Xo Steph

  15. I like slow. I often feel guilty for NOT trying to do more with my time though, and I still think there's a fair bit of room to slow down further. Many of the women I spend time with at the moment have the most crazy busy lives managing their families and all the extracurricular activities their kids do, as well as their own work plus social things etc etc! I really don't know how they do it, and I'm not sure I really want to learn. Hmmm.

    Nice gratuitous pics, BTW ;-)

  16. Someone told me about an article that said multitasking is not good for us & I thought to myself "good, because I'm rubbish at it" [EXCEPT for breastfeeding & blog browsing, they go well together!]

    I realised awhile ago I was kidding myself that I can parent well and do lots of other things at the same time. I can do them occasionally but it is unfair on the smalls to expect much else.

    For me a large part of parenting is about thinking/planning ahead and that certainly feels like multitasking but now I see it as part & parcel of the gig.

    I've found it is so easy to get caught up in the whole trying-to-do-everything mindset that I lose site of my priorities.

    I was in a workshop once where everyone was asked to write 2 lists: the most important things in our lives & the things we actually spent our time doing. Nearly everyone's lists were inversely related, like everyone put family as most important yet spent most of their time working or doing other things rather than just spending time with family (i.e. not also being on the phone/computer/sewing machine, watching the TV, etc.)It was an insightful exercise, one I should do honestly every couple of months.

    The important stuff as you so aptly put it: get some sun and air, everyone appropriately fed and watered, do something creative, hang out with some other people, have a good cuddle, relate well or at least give it a red-hot go!

    You should shine that halo, sounds like you're in a good place.

    Yikes, sorry about the lengthy comment!

  17. Excellent concept, obviously you've really hit on something. When my dad was terminally ill he had this saying "five star hours". I think i'm going to slow down too and try to have some more five star moments myself. Thanks:)

  18. it's all so true. i have been thinking about this, and i know i have a problem, but unlike you i haven't yet been able to bring myself to be happy with just accomplishing 1 think a day. i can't even watch a movie without having to do something productive. you make me proud, good on you.

  19. gina, i totally agree & have been feeling the same of late. Boy oh boy we want it all & we want it now..other generations were much more content with a simpler existence.

  20. Fantastic post... love it... you're so very right. Enjoy your the sun, air and those adorable children. Have a sensational week!

  21. Hey Gina,

    I pray you'll continue to reap the blessings of taking life slowly!

    I am certainly one who loves a bit of multi-tasking - having lots of projects on the go, a uni subject and now two days of work a week gives me a sense of being important and of participating in the world, but I know this sense of worth is slightly misplaced. I find that I feel bored if I don't have a lot to do that involves things outside of our home, but perhaps that is because I'm not disciplined enough to focus my energies here and to trust that my efforts here are worthwhile of themselves.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this - it's been a good priority-challenger!

    Take care,

  22. "Mono-tasking" will now be my mantra.It used to be "I want to be a hermit"but my children told me I was crabby enough, kids eh!

  23. I am with you! My friends always want to know why we don't come and visit or are we going to this event or that party? My hubby and I have been branded antisocial but the truth of it is that we spend all week rushing around 'doing' that on the weekend we just want to stay at home and SLOW down and enjoy life at a pace where it doesn't rush past us. Nice Post and I love those beanies....going to have to whip up a couple of those :-)

  24. You're so right Gina - there is a need to stop assuming we need to do everything at once. Today I left my mobile at home when I went out. It was done quite by accident but it was really liberating not to answer calls and messages as I did the shopping with Miss G - but to just chat to her about fruit and vegetables and enjoy her company. The missed calls and messages have been dealt with now - but they weren't urgent enough to have to be done on the spot.
    Just because we can do things - doesn't mean we always should.

  25. Gorgeous photos!

    I love the idea of monotasking. I've stopped multitasing when plaing with my daughter...I used to play, but be reading, cooking or on the computer etc. now i jst play. Its fun.

  26. Ah, woman after my own heart.. again!! I've been on a similar page for the past few months and its led to much calmer days. So hard to live in the moment when you have five things on the go. My blog/computer time has suffered mostly and I've not been able to catch up with as many lovely blogs as I'd like, but hey, life is short. x

  27. My husband is always multi-tasking and never seems to finish anything. Slow is definitely the way to go.

  28. Perfectly put my girl, perfectly put... I might have to read that post a few times to let it really sink in.

  29. Hope you have polished your halo. You really should. A very inspiring post. The concept that multi-tasking is really switching quickly between things rings very true. I'm certain I get more done when I manage to narrow my focus and attention. In times of pressure or stress though, I find it's easy to lapse back into frenzied inattentiveness as I attempt to deal with every little thing in the same moment.

  30. I've been mulling your post over for days but not made the time to comment... too busy multitasking! It was inspiring though.

  31. I'm slowing everything down here too. Are there not enough hours in the day or am I doing too much? Since I can't control the former then the answer is to reduce the expectation (self-imposed). Why do I expect so much of myself? Why when my partner walks in the door of an evening do I rattle off everything I've done in the day? Am I trying to justify my existence? Am I worried that I don't work hard enough? Is it just a hang-over from working and personal performance reviews? A hang-over from education and striving to get a good grade? Why do I seek external affirmation that I am working hard when my muscles and mind, exhausted at the end of everyday tell me that I am working hard? Why do I feel guilty that what I do isn't enough?

    Well enough. I'm trying to slow it down too. I want to enjoy. I want to relish. I want to do less and just be.

  32. I'm soooo with you Gina - this all makes so much sense. I often have that desperate not-enough-hours-in-the-day feeling while at the same time trying to focus on the important stuff. Monotasking is definitely the way to go.
    It really is all in our heads though isn't it?

  33. I'm so slow I've come over this post weeks later!
    I love what you have written here and the links you have shared. Thank you.


  34. Well I am so in love with this post that I'm going to have to go off and absorb it some more. This very concept has been flickering around in my head for a long time too (you will note that I often write about "not being very busy, thanks anyway". The slow life is the good, satisfying, contented life and that's the life for me. I'll look forward to reading more when you're back from your (slow, I presume) trip. x

  35. Oh my goodness I love that rainbow jacket! Love it!!


“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
~Albert Einstein