Unpopular Opinion: Monotasking isn’t Going to Kill You

When did you last properly participate in one singular thing at a time?
Published: 12 March 2024

I can't recall the last time I did, off the top of my head. My mind goes straight to basic survival like consumption and absolution of energy; eating and defecating—excuse the savoury start to this article. Yet, even these exercises are hardly ever carried out solely anymore. You spend your lunch with mobile Netflix and play <insert top App Store game> on the crapper.
It certainly doesn’t help that AI is continuously advancing its proficiencies. If the Industrial Revolution reduced back-breaking labour 300 years ago, bestowing folks time to pursue interests outside the daily grind, AI is now doing the same with mental labour. Which means more time on our hands, and theconstant need to do something only intensifies.


We’re wired for stimulation, as exemplified by doom scrolling. Even without Tik-Tok induced dopamine highs, we’re too permeated in a state of overstimulation to acknowledge it. On numerous occasions, I’ve caught myself thumbing my phone not only during commercials (thanks, YouTube) but the shows that I’m watching.
It blows my mind to recall that listening to music used to be a pastime. Ever since they made gramophones fit in our pockets, songs are now musical white noise for commute. Even then, Spotify isn't the app you’re primarily engaging with. You’re sifting emails, answering texts, replying to comments (I promise this is not a smartphone-hating piece).

A lot came with modern convenience but a lot left as well. With everything instantaneously available, value is lost and gratitude diminishes. It's an extreme analogy but we once (and for certain parts of the world still, optional or not) had to physically get out there and source for sustenance; not just click "Check Out".
This displacement is so poetically encapsulated in Triangle of Sadness, after the motley crew gets marooned on the island. The dynamic shift based on life and death priorities effectively spells out how challenging and therefore, valuable a simple task like keeping yourself fed can be.

We are evidently geared for different times. Consider a washer-dryer versus manually doing a load of laundry. With this luxury of time, we should allow ourselves to simmer in one activity in a moment.

Say it with me: "Meaningful engagement" isn't a hippie phrase

A study by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London proved that multitasking makes you dumber. Think poor sleeping habits are bad? It's found that multitasking is detrimental to your IQ more severely than losing 40 winks or watching hours of trash TV. Done chronically and it can decrease grey matter density in parts of the brain.
There's no self-help angle here. I could advise to schedule “deep work” at “peak performance time” set away from “distractions” but I'd instead proffer the sinful cliché of a perspective change.

Is it plausible to retrain ourselves to concentrate even amid internal and external interferences? To plan for recreation—in its true sense—the way we do with healthy work practices. In blocks of pure, present, recognition.
In the past, fasting was one religious way to connect to a higher power. Perhaps not only because the devout abstains from sensory indulgence but the absence of needing to hunt/kill/gather/flay/cook/clean likely resulted in hours returned; hours used for quiet meditation. A contemporary equivalent wouldn't be one from bodily grub but mental fodder.

You'd be amazed how long a weekend can be without the Internet. Remove media consumption from leisure and all that’s left is either existential panic at newfound boredom or production. To create. Write, sketch, heck, dance. Explore what the body and mind are capable of. Appreciate the endeavour and how we can afford to partake in it.

Dial down the ambition; we don’t have to do them all. Only one at a time. And for once in a long time, focus.

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