At a party a couple of weeks ago, I ran into C, a woman I recognized from a series of yoga classes I’d taken years ago. We started talking, and I asked her what she did for a living. She had recently retired. How do you spend your time? I asked. She said she spent her days meditating and “monotasking.”
Monotasking? It was a startling answer, and she didn’t elaborate. I’ve been mulling it over ever since.
Years of multitasking have been interrupted only by an occasional intense yoga practice. During a busy adulthood of working, long-distance eldercare and up-close childcare, I have lost my focus. I skim books while my mind is elsewhere. A month after I’ve read a book, I can seldom recall the author’s name, the characters, how the story ended. The same is true of movies.
And I skim life too. At the gym, I watch television or listen to a podcast as I swivel through the elliptical. I selectively avoid activities that require single-minded undistracted attention, like sewing, say, which I used to love but now find too boring. If I must confront a task head-on, like folding laundry, I rush through it to get to the end of it, the finishing more important than the doing. Even my social life is jammed in between other commitments. I'm speeding through with my eyes glazed over.
So it is actually kind of unusual that I focused on C’s words, cemented them in my memory and returned to them to mull them over.
Since our conversation, I’ve been experimenting with monotasking. And it’s not easy. But I suspect it’s important. Because if you continually race through activities trying to put them behind you without fully experiencing them, aren’t you doing that with your life too?