The Curse of Modern Living (Part 8) – Multitasking

by Charlie_East_West on November 1, 2013


“There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time. This steady and undissipated attention to one object, is a sure mark of a superior genius; as hurry, bustle, and agitation, are the never-failing symptoms of a weak and frivolous mind.”
Lord Chesterfield

This is a note to self. Stop multitasking.

Stop rushing around. Stop the endless need for instant gratification. Stop responding immediately to everything. Slow down. Enjoy one thing at a time. Concentrate on the task at hand.

There is a lazy misconceived gender stereotype that men are shit at multi-tasking. This is a complete myth. I have always been able to hold a pint of Guinness in one hand and a fag in the other hand.

Multi-tasking may have its merits for domestic chores, but in many other arenas of life it is completely misplaced. It becomes a futile pretence that leads towards a complete lack of focus in enjoying the moment.

An average day for millions of people, including myself, will involve a complete and utter overload of stimulus all at the same time. There are the usual family logistics and work pressures which are difficult to avoid and they are the basic necessities in life. But, when the stimulus overload starts affecting full enjoyment of individual interests such as politics, literature, sport, film and music, then it is time to take a step back and work out what the hell happened to all of us.

James Gleick wrote in his 1999 book Faster, “We are multitasking connoisseurs — experts in crowding, pressing, packing, and overlapping distinct activities in our all-too-finite moments.”

In this day and age we have a dangerous amount of access to overloading the senses. We have an almost unlimited choice to listen, read, watch and play – and yet, this overload paradoxically restricts our ability to enjoy whatever we are doing.

Whenever I consume myself in a political story, I feel an almost obsessive compulsive need to inform other people about it. Christ, even when I wake up and turn on the news – I have an immediate need to start discussing it. The long suffering Mrs East-West calls it “Mr East-West’s thought for the day.”

Whenever I watch sport, I go onto social media as the event is happening to read about what complete strangers have to say about the sporting evening in question. I have even done this when attending a live sporting event at Murrayfield, St Andrews or Old Trafford. I am distracting myself from my own chosen distractions. I am not quite living in the moment.

Whenever I read a book, I am immediately drawn to Wikipedia to find out more about the book, author and reviews. Rather than forming an opinion myself, I am forming an opinion through the words of others. I am forgetting the art of influencing myself.

Whatever I listen to music, I immediately start shuffling the album on an iPod rather than listening to it in the order it was meant to be played in. I do not give an album time to breathe and often I interrupt the album of choice by listening to something else. Again, I disrupt the whole listening experience by reading reviews rather than forming a clear opinion based on my own thoughts. Music often becomes background noise soundtracking my day – rather than giving myself time to fully indulge in the listen – free from any outside distractions. George East and Bobby West have the solution here – listen to Vinyl.

I am probably not alone within this jumble sale of over-stimulation. Whenever I go to a gig, cinema, or even more disturbingly, the pub or restaurant, I am amazed by the amount of people who are not living fully in the present tense. They might be there in physical form, but they are functioning elsewhere – normally through relentless texting on their mobile phones. It is anti social behaviour at its absolute worst. Personally, I think that the government should create a piece of legislation to ban mobile phones in certain public places like pubs, cinemas, music venues and restaurants. This would improve the well being of everyone.

We are all too bloody distracted to live fully in the present. One of the many things my children have taught me is their wonderful ability to live in the moment. Pre-teenage kids think of not much else apart from the immediate task at hand. They are not yet falling into a trap set from destroying the moment with outside influences such as social media and mobile phones.

Yesterday provided a rare moment of epiphany. I was looking after the kids who are currently on half-term holiday. I was trying to juggle childcare with working from home. However, I was unable to work as my network provider had a signal problem. My blood pressure initially rocketed, but as the day developed, I actually found the lack of outside communication rather liberating. It forced me to focus on the task at hand – looking after the children. By the end of the day, I had cooked a home-made meal, took the kids out to ride their bikes, and set up and hosted a Halloween party for the kids and their school friends. It was a great day and the kids received my full attention. Everyone was happy.

So, my note to self is this:- Slow the fuck down and focus on what I am doing without distraction. Multi-tasking shall be replaced by single-tasking.

How long will this new approach last? I give it 5 seconds….

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