I do it all the time, but I don’t enjoy multitasking. I like to give things my undivided attention—assuming the thing in question is something I enjoy or find interesting. There is a beauty in allowing an activity, thought, or experience to consume—fully consume—you. This is one of the reasons I love playing volleyball. Few distractions reach me on the court. Nothing exists beyond my teammates and the endeavor of winning. I’m not updating my status or trying to get more work done. The game demands my full attention. There are no to-do lists or chores. My brain and my body are working towards only one goal.
Distractions can be dangerous. Too often I see someone behind the wheel of a moving vehicle with his/her eyes trained not on the road, but an electronic device in his/her hand. The desire to constantly be doing more (or achieving more) doesn’t allow some people to focus on a single activity—not even when lives are at stake.
We are a culture too often defined by distractions. We disengage from the people around us to interact with others remotely. We take our eyes off of once-in-a-lifetime events to tell our friends/followers we’re there. And yet, in stopping to “share” or “check in” we’re taking ourselves out of the experience we claim we’re having. I’m amazed at how often I’ll be watching a sporting event on TV and see members of the crowd watching the live event through the viewfinder of their smartphones or tablets. They’re there, and yet they’re not fully there. They’re at the epicenter of the action, but they’re watching it on a screen just like I am at home. I’m not saying that taking photos is foolish. I’m all for memorializing milestones and special events. I just find it interesting that in trying to create souvenirs from our experiences, we must miss a portion of the event we hope to maintain as a memory. Our participation is paused while we’re recording.
I’m guilty of it myself. I have neglected to be fully mentally or emotionally available because I am not giving anything my full attention. I have to consciously remind myself that most things can wait, and some things are worth experiencing at a level of one hundred percent present. Distractions are for chores—they help make the tedious and mundane less boring. But even so, I don’t want distractions to occupy so much space in my life that they leave no room for deep thought. Epiphanies can come while folding the laundry or waiting for a train. Revelation tends to wait for silence and your undivided attention. When I’m too busy, I stay too shallow in my own thoughts. When I’m distracted or multitasking, I’m not getting any deep work done.
There is a beauty in singularity. Going for a walk without listening to a podcast or talking on the phone. Eating a meal without having the television on—facing yourself (or another person). I like allowing my attention to be fully captivated by something. Certainly there are times when multitasking is called for and even beneficial, but to live in that mode permanently is to live in fractions and shallow portions.