Why I have to stop multi-tasking

A couple days ago, I wrote a poem. Made a poem might be more accurate, since it was a newspaper black-out poem in the Austin Kleon style, and it was hard, particularly because his poems are so good and profound and mine that night was not.  It took a lot of focus and I was pretty grumpy while writing it. I was also cooking lentils in the kitchen, not two feet away from where I was sitting with newspapers scattered all over the table and a cat trying to burrow beneath my poem.

I put extra water on the lentils. I remembered from last time that lentils take an inordinate amount of time to cook (especially when you are hungry). I figured the pot would boil over before it would burn.

And then, you guessed it, in the middle of fighting with the cat over whether the sports section was for poetry or digging (poetry won), the lentils burned. I lifted the lid and smoke came out. I scalded the bottom of the pot and had to throw away the lentils and start over with the other pot. Scott’s been fighting to get it clean ever since.*

The lesson here is that even when something seems simple, don’t ignore it. Don’t leave it on autopilot because you think you know how lentils cook. Just cook the lentils. Save the poetry for after dinner when you aren’t hungry and grouchy. In retrospect, I should have swept the floor or done the dishes, stirring the lentils occasionally, paying attention to them, instead of burying myself in the New York Times.

I have always been a multitasker. One task has often been too easy, not enough of challenge. Add two or three or seven, and suddenly it seems exciting, but that is an illusion. When I multitask, I miss the moment. I miss the chance to smell the lentils before they burn, to take a second to stop doing-doing-doing all the time, and just breathe. Do something human. Make dinner. Relax.

Instead of multitasking, I want to be able to focus. I don’t want six browser windows open at the same time. I want to see the one thing in front of me, to really see it, and to enjoy it for what it is.

*I would do my part, but he’s home more.

One comment

  1. Been there, done that. Probably a misery loves company reaction, but nice to share someone else’s “ahha moment”.

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