Friday, 13 June 2014

Mono-tasking

Time. It waits for no man. And it certainly doesn't wait for me.

As I look back at my run of 30 day challenges and especially the one I'm currently on, it is apparent that the biggest challenge in my life - by far is time. Lack of it, management of it, just plain not having any of it.

In the first challenge, on the occasions that I didn't go to the gym (or do the equivalent work out), it was because I didn't have time. When I struggled to buy Gavin gifts in the second challenge, it was because I didn't have time to go shopping (although I still managed to give him a nice gift, MERF!) On the days when I failed the writing challenge it was  because I didn't have time to spend sitting at a PC or even with a pad - despite having a topic I wanted to write about. I even said at the end of that particular challenge that I'd continue... and I haven't, because of.. you guessed it... lack of time.

And now, the current attempt to meditate everyday has been (so far) an absolute failure. The combination of not being able to find somewhere quiet when I have the time to do it and, mostly, not having the time to do it, means I've utterly, utterly bombed out on this one. It's day 13 and I've only succeeded on 5 days. That's abysmal.

So why is this? When did my life become an overloaded, never-ending sequence of things to do and places to be?

I want to blame the internet. Hey, it's a great thing to blame! Distracting me all the time, increasing the number of TV shows I can watch exponentially. Hell, let's blame the internet for everything that's wrong with the world!

But no. It's not that. It is true that it takes up time, but, when I was doing the 'no recreational internet challenge', I still managed to fill my day to the brim. And, more pertinently, when I lived in Japan I had internet access on tap, all day, everywhere, Yet I never struggled with my daily routine the way I did before or after that. So it's definitely not the internet, but there maybe a clue right there. Hmm. Japan...

Japanese culture is different from our own in so many ways. Obvious ones and not so obvious. And the not so obvious one where I think I'll find my answer. It's to do with idea of multi-tasking.

At some point in the last decade, someone, somewhere, came up with the idea that multi-tasking is the way forward. I think it started off with the meme that women are much better at multi-tasking than men. Or at least, this common thread (certainly on Facebook) appeared around the same time. Which is probably true, by the way. 

It has since become the mantra of today's modern, mobile device enabled, flexitime, protein drink boosted, do, do, do, urban society. To get anything done these days, You have to multi-task. You have to do many things at once, because if you aren't multi-tasking, you aren't making the best use of your time.

I call bullshit on that. Multi-tasking is bunk. It's something that computers can do. That machines can do well. But It's not something that we - human beings - do well.

Yes, we can do several things at once, but most of those are unconscious actions. Walking, talking, avoiding objects, while taking a drag on a cigarette and scratching an itch - can all be done at the same time, but only one of those activities - talking - requires concious effort and not that much. 

What I see around me are people doing many things poorly. I see people (myself included) only partially engaged with their jobs, each other and their location. I see a general acceptance of lack of craft. We accept poor quality in lieu of efficiency and convenience. Which brings me back to Japan.

I only lived in Japan for a year and a half, so I'm not going to claim to be an expert. For one thing, I don't speak Japanese and for another, the company I worked for held my hand the whole way and made life really easy (in a right-wing Christian sort of way, but that's another story). But I was there long enough to see some fundamental differences between cultures. And one of those is where and how you focus. Craftsmanship.

I'm going to generalise now. The Japanese don't cut corners. They do things properly. By which I mean, if there is an accepted, right way of doing something - say, building something, crafting something, growing something - they will do that way. No need to find another, quicker way to do it, if the accepted way gets the best results. That doesn't mean you can't improve the technique, but doing something quicker is not necessarily an improvement.

So why would you multi task? Why would you reduce focus on what you are doing? Why wouldn't you give something all the attention that it deserves? If it's not worth doing properly, why do it at all?

The end result of this, is a much calmer, lifestyle, rich with skilled artisans, each profoundly good at doing whatever their thing is. Masters of their craft.

It also results in a much simpler personal agenda. It's a lot easier to manage your day if you are not juggling several things at once.

So, I need to simplify my daily routine. Juggle less stuff.

Mono-tasking. It's the way forward.

and remember: Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.