Sunday, October 25, 2009

Life Without Multitasking? Scary!

I almost never buy magazines. I used to subscribe to a couple, but when they began to pile up around my home in great, unread, teetering piles, I decided enough of that was enough and stopped subscribing. Now I subscribe only to the New York Times Book Review, which at least stacks up into small, unthreatening unread piles.

Last month I bought a Real Simple magazine. I have no good explanation. Real Simple magazine almost never involves anything real simple. I remember, a long time ago reading an interview with someone associated with The Simpsons. The guy said he loved finding advertising where the ratio of words to lies was 1:1--the example he gave was Country Crock. "It doesn't come from the country and there is no crock." Real Simple is right up there. On the front of the issue I bought, for example, is a beautiful frame handbag. It is a two-thousand dollar Prada bag. That says it all to me.

Nonetheless, in the magazine was an article called "Stop the Madness! One man's quest to go from manic multitasker to zen unitasker in one month flat." It is a testament to my multitasking addiction that it took me from September to nearly November just to find the time to read the article. But I really did enjoy it, for several reasons.

For one thing, I really feel for the dude as he struggles to corral his brain into unitasking. I do not remember the last time I ate a meal in my own home without watching television. If I turned off the television, I would probably turn on the radio. I don't shower with the radio on, but that's only because I don't have a shower radio. The concept of just concentrating on food is something that I do only at a restaurant, partly because I'm not a great cook...probably partly because I only pay attention to food I haven't prepared myself. Just taking the time to sit and read the article without doing something else was a struggle.

I also really identified with his struggles with meditation. He says he falls asleep while meditating, too--it's as though my brain has two speeds, trying to do too many things at once, and off. My brain sees meditation as time I've set aside to listen to it natter about all the depressing things that I really don't want to hear it blather on about. It's time for it to bring my unfiled expense reports to my attention. Time for it to explain why nobody loves me (yes, I know it's wrong, which is why I really hate it when it brings it up--it's like having the same argument that nobody wins with your spouse for like the 9000th time in a row). Time for it to explain how much I suck at my job. Blah, blah, blah.

And the culture of interruption at work, which he doesn't mention a lot, probably because he works from home, is something I hate and yet passively endorse by buckling like a belt to the constant pressure to be instantly available to everyone at work all the time. Instant messenger is a wonderful boon at work, but it's also the worst interrupter ever. People are allowed to interrupt you if you're busy, or in a meeting, or whatever. Last week during a critical activity that couldn't be delayed, I put "Do Not Disturb" on my messenger, which is apparently a crime against nature. 8 people messaged me to tell me that my messenger was on "Do Not Disturb." Thanks, folks. I needed that bulletin. (I'd have logged out, but then I'd be forced to talk to the developers in India on the phone. There is one specific guy I work with there whose written English is easier for me to grasp than his spoken English, and my written English is less idiomatic than my spoken English, so IM is what we've agreed works best. See? Boon. And yet...)

I found the article interesting (and also? hilarious!), and I'm off to try to meditate before bed. Assuming I don't fall asleep.

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