Crash and Burn
“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring)
In 2010, I crashed and burned mentally. The official diagnosis involved adrenal fatigue, and many factors led to my state of exhaustion. One of the biggest was too many commitments and going in too many directions. A constantly-divided focus led to a state of overwhelm and overload.
To recover and heal, I gave up a lot of poor habits and replaced them with healthier ones. That’s the only way to really heal from adrenal fatigue. One area needing a major overhaul involved my belief in multitasking as an operating system. The Toxic Impact of Multitasking needed eliminated. Its replacement? Learning to single-task again.
The Brain’s Desire
Our brains want to think deeply and creatively. As any multi-tasker knows, neither is possible with any consistency when your brain tries to focus on a multitude of different tasks at the same time. Instead, we end up reacting to life and living only a surface-level existence.
But, as Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., tells Forbes, with concerted effort:
Anyone can leave the “chaotic addiction of multitasking behind” and see “immediate and immense” benefits as well as an increase in creativity, energy and focus.
I’m living proof of this truth.
Single Tasking Habits
In addition to recommending adequate rest and exercise, Chapman gives three steps to reestablish single-tasking as a habit.
- Give your brain down time. Build in breaks throughout your day, and be sure to take at least a yearly extended break (called a vacation in case it’s been so long you forgot). Like a muscle, our brains need time to rest and recuperate. Ever feel like you make poorer decisions as the day goes on? We must choose to combat Decision Fatigue if we have any hope of not falling prey to its talons of dumb… bad… stupid… decisions.
- Focus deeply and eliminate distractions. Just like a person can’t go from couch to 5k instantly, deep focus needs worked up to as well. I certainly recognize that distractions find us all too easily. But with practice, we can develop the ability to focus deeply and attract fewer distractions. The more you reduce multitasking, the more you’ll excel at focusing.
- Make a to-do list. A to-do list kept a crash and burn at bay for many years and keeps me from regressing more often still today. Not only a tool to promote focus, a to-do list is also a terrific way to track progress. Remember, too, that you’ll get better at making and using to-do lists as you perfect what works best for you.
Commit to Change
Make a choice to break your multitasking addiction and instead to work toward a singe-tasking life. Be stubbornly determined to do so. Once the benefits begin, your belief in what Chapman claims and what my own experiences show, will increase.
As with any change, commit to it to make it work. Alter daily habits and admit that the way you’re working now isn’t the best option and that maybe you can trust the example of those who have gone before you on this journey.