The Art of Uni-tasking


Last week, as I slipped my laptop snugly in to my bag after a day’s work at the office, I had the overwhelming desire to switch off. And I mean really switch everything off. I felt so close to something akin to a breaking point that I just wanted to stop any and all external stimulus from entering in to my awareness, scattering my energy, and instead sinking deeply within myself again. So I trotted off to my evening yoga class, got my stretch and flex on, and then sunk in to an evening of absolutely no external stimuli whatsoever. Phone off. TV off. Hearing from people, off. Speaking to people, off.

And you know what I found there? You guessed it. Peace. Space. Calm.

Water Drop Light Blue

As it turns out, accessing this depth is something I’ve rarely been doing over the last few months. I had an energy healing massage last week and my therapist, who could feel in to my energy body, lovingly suggested I need to stop ‘processing so much’. Which, to be honest I’m fully aware I have a tendency to do. But one thing she said really shook me up: ‘You’re processing all the time, even when you’re meditating. You’ve really got to let go’.

I’ve had a myriad of external goings-on to keep me well and truly distracted from really dropping in to stillness within. Frankly, I can’t believe it’s only the beginning of April, I feel like enough’s happened this year to warrant it being at least July already.

To keep you across just a fraction of what’s been going on – I’m currently in the throes of packing up and shifting houses. Knee deep in boxes, redirecting mail, general chaos all around.

I’ve also been going through the delightful (read: stressful, at times tedious, overwhelming) process of buying my first place. Which is simultaneously thrilling AND makes me vomit a little bit in my mouth. If I were to create a portmanteau to describe this feeling I think it would be something like ‘Squeeeevom’.

So I’ve been squeeeevomming my way through the last couple of months or so, riding the alternating waves of joy and nausea.

I’ve found that in order to deal with it all in a reasonably healthy way, I’ve pulled right back from my usual jam-packed schedule and instead shifted focus from how well I can multi-task and  ‘get shit done’ to how well I can UNI-task. How well I can take it one step at a time.

Because I’m at a point in my life where thinking about how I’m getting from ‘here’ to ‘there’ in so many respects is really overwhelming me. I’m halfway up the metaphorical mountain and struggling to see how I’ll reach the summit. So I’m dropping my head, focusing on my shoelaces and just putting one foot in front of the other. Dealing just with what’s in front of me, at this very moment. Uni-tasking.

And I’m starting to think this is something I should have been doing all along.

Men can apparently uni-task very well, and are often chided for their inability to focus on more than one thing at a time. But I think this is one of the best ways to get ourselves through times of overwhelm and ‘busyness’, if not life in general.

Here’s what I’ve been doing to help me uni-task:

Being present: Focusing on what’s right in front of me. This is a huge challenge, as my mind often wants to race off on a million tangents. When I observe myself doing this, I breathe in to my body and feel it from the inside out, anchoring in to the present.

Reducing stimuli: I’m hardly watching or consuming any news, only dipping my toe in and out of twitter to scan some headlines. Switching off my phone, and putting regular self-imposed bans on social media. This is helping to stop my ‘multiple tabs open all the time’ approach to life, which isn’t serving me at the moment.

Going in to ‘no-mind’: I’m making a point of reducing the structure I’ve had in place for a lot of my meditation practice, and instead just slipping in to the gap between thoughts as much as possible. It’s only a few seconds usually, but I just keep bringing myself back there. Pairing back my meditations to ‘minimalist’ style is suiting me, at the moment.

Journalling: Getting it on the page, in whatever form it comes – coherent or garbled, it doesn’t matter. This just helps with stopping incessant thought loops about things that are often beyond my control.

I must admit, after years and years of multi-tasking like a proverbial boss, or so I thought, uni-tasking is growing on me.

Who knows, it might even become a habit.

How about you? Are you a chronic multi-tasker, do you thrive on having multiple tabs open in your brain at once? Or are you more of a ‘one at a time’ person? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

Image source


  • Alana


    I couldn’t agree with you more about everything you mention. I want to cultivate more stillness – and by cultivate, I mean allow – in my life 🙂


  • Henriikka

    Love it, love it – struggling with uni-tasking all the time, will need to put stillness higher in the priority list to gain greater peace and maybe some sanity 🙂

    • Carly

      Thanks, Henriikka! It’s definitely a struggle for any regular multi-tasker. I think we’ve got to cut ourselves some slack too – we’re trying to undo years of a learned behaviour. xx

  • elle north

    Oh, I am *such* a chronic multi-tasker. I totally need to tone it down, lately, though. I’ve been working on closing my email and facebook tabs when working on a project so that I can truly focus…in reality, I work better that way. I like the idea of journaling to get the process started…off to try that now! xo

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