How to NOT multi-task

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but schedule your priorities.” Stephen Covey

Yesterday, I got a text from Luis, the man who turns my sprinklers on each spring. He asked if he could come over in the afternoon to turn my sprinkler system on. Luis has a waitlist of clients this time of year and I got excited he had availability to come over. But there was an issue…I had a scheduling conflict. My friend, Jody, was coming over that afternoon to catch up over appetizers and La Croix on my newly refurbished patio. (Thank you World Market furniture).

My mind began to race about ways to have both Jody and Luis over in the same afternoon. Luis could turn on the sprinklers, Jody and I could catch up on the porch, and I could step away as needed to answer questions Luis has while Jody hangs out on her own. Something in my gut said that didn’t feel right but my logical mind quickly jumped in and said, “It makes sense. Jody won’t mind, she has a yard with a sprinkler system, she gets it.”

“Multitasking: A polite way of telling someone you haven’t heard a word they’ve said.” – Dave Crenshaw

I intuitively sensed I would be distracted by Luis walking around the yard as Jody and I are diving into deep conversation (which we always do). Also I would be rushed and not fully present with Luis to answer his questions about what time to set the sprinklers to go on and off.

Instead of a win-win, this could be a lose-lose.

“Multi-tasking divides your attention and leads to confusion and weakened focus.” – Deepak Chopra

But my mind continued to justify this multi-tasking idea with, “Luis is really busy and this might be your only chance to have him turn on the sprinklers for a few weeks. If he doesn’t do it this afternoon, you’re going to have to manually water the yard and move the hose around, what a pain. This makes perfect sense to have Luis come over this afternoon, you’ll be home and he’s available.”

My gut said, “This feels stressful and like a bad decision. Luis can come another time, it’s not a big deal. Don’t try to do too many things at once, be present with Jody.”

Deciding to follow my intuition, I texted Luis back with, “Tonight won’t work but how about another time this week?” He replied quickly with, “I’ll be in touch about another time this week.” I took a deep breath of relief (always a sign I did the right thing by following my intuition). I had chosen the less-stress, distraction-free option and turned 100% of my focus, time and attention to Jody. We had a wonderful, deep conversation while enjoying the patio without someone walking around the yard.

“You’re presence is the most precious gift you can give to another human being.” – Marshall B. Rosenberg

We are often bombarded with ways to optimize our time, be more efficient checking off things on our to-do list, and we’re praised for being great multi-taskers.

But what about optimizing our ability to be present with others? What about being more efficient at deeply listening to a friend? What about saying no to multi-tasking and yes to the present moment?

In a world of trying to get as many things done as quickly as possible, we’re distracted which causes us more stress and less peace. We’ve moved away from what nourishes our soul; being present with ourselves and others.

I was tempted and it “made sense” to schedule my time with Jody and appointment with Luis in the same afternoon but it didn’t feel right. I’m grateful I listened to my gut because Jody and I talked on a deep level which wouldn’t have happened if my attention was divided.

For the next few days, I’ll be moving the hose around to keep my lawn watered. It’s a small price to pay in exchange for the soul-nourishing gift of fully present, distraction-free time with my friend.

“There is nothing I want but your presence.” – Rumi

I’d love to hear from you. Does this resonate? Do you desire to be more present but are tempted to multi-task?  Share in the comments below.


2 replies
  1. Kim M Dove
    Kim M Dove says:

    This story does resonate with me Devon! I try very diligently to keep my life “simple” & peaceful & it sometimes is more difficult than one would think! Framing my day with morning pages helps me prioritize. If something doesn’t feel right; it probably isn’t! If I have more to loose than I have to gain; out it goes! That is my yardstick! Staying focused & present is very, very authentic & it feels “good”. It isn’t always easy but like you taught me; “turn that horse around”! love ya Devon!

    • Devon
      Devon says:

      Hi Kim, I love your practices of using a “yardstick” meter and framing your day with Morning Pages. Those are powerful tools for keeping life “simple and peaceful”. Thank for sharing your wisdom and experience!


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