When I was a kid, my dad was what today we might call my lead parent. My mom was involved in my life too, but she often worked 60 hours a week and sometimes had to travel for work. My dad’s work day ended at 3:00, and he had a little more flexibility in terms of taking time off, so he was the one who picked me up from day care, took me to my first day of kindergarten, and attended school events. I spent a good bit of time with him when I was young, and he taught me many of life’s essential early lessons.
I sometimes took my dad for granted in my adolescent years, as teens often do. He went through some hard times and battled some demons, and I didn’t always understand or appreciate him. When I was in 11th grade, and again during my first year of college, he was hospitalized with serious health issues. These brushes with death transformed my dad and my relationship with him, and I’m especially grateful for the person he became and the times we spent together over the past 15 years.
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
Lately, I’ve been trying to grow my attention span. I get distracted easily, and having the internet at an arm’s length most of the day does not help. But to be as productive as possible in my job, and to enter flow states and do good creative work, I need to be able to focus on one task for an extended period of time.
Like many people today, I’m a chronic multitasker. In my free time, you’ll rarely find me doing just one thing. I’m talking on the phone while driving, listening to an audiobook while gardening, watching a TV show while cooking, texting a friend while listening to a podcast while putting away laundry. Though always doing two (or more) things at once may make me feel more productive, I know that it reduces the amount of attention I’m devoting to each activity. I think multitasking too much can lead me to feel less calm, too. My brain sometimes needs silence, and the chance to devote itself to just one thing. So I’m making a conscious effort to do more unitasking (also known as monotasking).
It isn’t an easy change to make, and I frequently slip back into bad habits. I wrote down some rules for myself, and I review them regularly to help me stay on track. Here are a few things I’m doing to try to minimize distractions and increase my focus.