Monday, January 18, 2010

Uni-tasking Instead of Multi-tasking

Over the summer I developed a case of pneumonia which, just as the doctor said, took six weeks for a complete recovery. Without my usual amount of energy, I developed a greater appreciation for those who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome. Each day I’d wake feeling like my old self, but it lasted only a short while and then I’d feel exhausted again. The doctor said not to push, but to listen to my body and rest whenever I was tired. That was a big adjustment, as were daytime naps, and heading to sleep long before the usual midnight.

One benefit was that I re-learned how to uni-task. Since I was conserving energy, I was unable to do the usual multi-tasking we’ve all become accustomed to. I found I only had enough energy to focus on one task and complete it before engaging in another. During the second two weeks of being ill, I had a summer class to teach. My schedule consisted of teaching in the morning, driving home, napping, and then updating lectures, PowerPoints, and class activities before climbing back to bed in the early evening.

In reality I didn’t miss the multi-tasking at all and discovered it is possible to focus on one task, complete it, and feel productive. I vowed to continue this once my health returned and have been only moderately successful. It's exceedingly difficult to establish and maintain new work habits. I am maintaining my resolve to work on projects in a more focused way, and respond to emails and phone messaged several times a day rather than as soon as it’s received. Change is never easy, especially when it involves changing behaviors that have become habitual. (See my Hebrew College blog on student behaviors at

Somehow it seems I'm often wrestling with creating a balance between work and life tasks and finding time to unwind. Uni-tasking seems to present some merit as a response. I'm interested in hearing from others about how you manage work, family, life tasks, and fun!

1 comment:

Deb said...

I wonder how we can incorporate uni-tasking into the life of a public school special educator?

We teach kids to focus- take a break and then refocus. I think what happens with some kids is that they take that break and forget what they need to do and think they finished that particular assignment. Boy can I relate to that!

Is it possible that at our faculty meetings we unitask or that systems ask teachers to just focus on one task.