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Banish The Multi-Tasking Monster

Check out the following scenarios and tell me if any of them resonate alarmingly well with you:

  • You only make phone calls from the car.
  • Your meal often grows cold while you’re finishing a text or email.
  • You status-update and read news headlines while binge watching TV series.
  • You buy your favorite Anthropologie blouse while in the grocery store check-out line.
  • You order tonight’s take-out while doing the laundry and half-listening to your friend’s update about her bad day.

Maybe it’s just me but, I’m guessing you’ll catch yourself nodding in chagrin at seeing yourself in at least one of these situations. Particularly if you happen to be from the United States. In fact, we Americans revel in being the ultimate multi-taskers.

Our entire self-worth can easily get wrapped up in that good ole Puritanical Work Ethic, which has somehow morphed into being the biggest chicken with the bloodiest neck and dancing feet that jump over a cawing beak while glassy eyes stare up at us in horror, and complete lack of recognition, from the ground where our head is still rolling.

It’s not a uniquely American problem, of course. We live in a global economy and the 24-hour news cycle can technically reach almost everywhere.

And, hell, some people would argue it isn’t even a problem at all.

But those people are insane, okay?

Multi-tasking is fucking exhausting.

It’s also incredibly isolating and devaluing.

It is impossible to multi-task AND be present at the same time.

And we all know our health and happiness are dependent upon being present. So, we have a choice.

And that choice is more radical that simply putting down the phone while we eat.

It’s consciously rejecting a paradigm.

It’s training the people around you not to get upset when you’re not at their beck-and-call. It’s learning how to navigate the world without instant gratification. It’s letting yourself get uncomfortable and vulnerable and honest.

I can tell you the trade-offs are so worth it!

You’ll learn what it feels like to breathe deeply outside of a yoga class. You’ll discover quirks about the people you love, as well as their eye color. You’ll understand the pleasure of sipping your wine rather than just the benefits of the finished glass.

That last one was a revelation for me.

I rarely drink wine. Or, that’s an accurate statement in the past tense.

Since living in Paris these last few months, I’ve had a glass of wine almost as frequently as I’ve eaten a baguette. But there are no cell phones on the table in Paris. People actually get shushed when using them in public spaces, like parks or sidewalks. God forbid they be pulled out in a bistro.

In fact, if it weren’t for their evidence on the metro, and usually only to provide a soundtrack, you’d think the smartphone age hadn’t reached France.

Meals revolve around conversation. That’s why they can last four times as long as those in the U.S. while less than a fourth of the quantity of food is consumed.

People walk slower, because they’re actually noticing the world around them. While I often stumble over the uneven cobble stones in Paris (even worse in Florence — I’m a step away from a twisted ankle at all times!), I’ve not once been bumped into by an oblivious pedestrian more attuned to their Fantasy Football standing than the person standing in front of them.

Now, am I suggesting that everyone move to Paris? No.

I am, however, suggesting an active revolt against the paradigm. and a banishment of the multi-tasking mentality.

Multi-tasking doesn’t actually result in more productivity, just more busy-ness.

And busy-ness kills community. And connection. And love.

Not to get too dramatic or anything.

What would happen if you tried, for just one full days, to do ONLY ONE THING AT A TIME?

You may discover you want to bash your head against the wall from boredom. More likely, you’ll just yearn to numb out from the discomfort of discovering how you feel about any particular activity, or place, or person.

But then, I’m guessing, a funny thing will happen.

Your shoulders will drop. Your lungs will expand. Your face’s stress-related fissures will be replaced by laugh lines.

You’ll re-encounter your self.

And that’s worth a little revolution. So, are you ready to take up arms?

with pleasure,

Emily Lewis




p.s. My upcoming course Living In Detail can help you create your revolution. To be among the first to get access to the details, sign up here.

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Nat, Website Superhero December 3, 2015, 09:55

    Oooh this is really lovely. Something I’ve been doing since the summer that has helped me multitask less (and feel pulled by multitasking less) is to meditate every day.

    I do it in the morning, before getting out of bed, and it helps color my day with more vibrance. I’m calmer, more at ease. A suitable alternative to living in Paris 😉

    • Emily Lewis December 3, 2015, 10:42

      Meditation is such a great tool, Nat! Kudos for having developed a practice. I do it in fits and starts, but believe in it so much that I created a meditation for the Play+Ground collection, for free download. It’s been great to hear people’s reactions to it.

  • Sally Tudhope December 3, 2015, 10:32

    I love this more than I can say. This year I’ve fallen foul of the multi-tasking monster, thinking it’s helping me get more things done.

    It’s exhausting though. I’ve decided 2016 will be about deliberation and calmness, not crazy and chaos!

    • Emily Lewis December 3, 2015, 10:43

      Fantastic, Sally! I’ll be a huge cheer leader for your year of deliberation and calmness. And it can begin now…with just a simple breath. xo

  • Janet December 3, 2015, 13:31

    Sooo guilty as charged! Funny how Paris can put things into persective! This is so true: “Multi-tasking doesn’t actually result in more productivity, just more busy-ness.” Thanks for the reminder!

    • Emily Lewis December 3, 2015, 14:33

      Any time, Janet! We all need reminders. ?

  • Mandy August 17, 2016, 09:31

    Thanks for this post. It was a great reminder to slow down. I am definitely one of those multi-taskers you mentioned at the beginning of the post, always on the go. *sigh*

    • Emily Lewis September 13, 2016, 07:52

      I’m glad you are conscious of the need to slow down and breathe, Mandy. Hope you do it!

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