Guest post by Beth Richards
As I write this, I’m wondering if I should call to cancel an appointment for tomorrow, whether my son will get all his homework done, and whether I’ll lose the pounds I put on recently. I’m also letting the sink fill with water to wash the dishes (got to remember to turn off the tap on time), and while I’m there I’ll just pop a piece of bread into toaster, oh and turn on the radio because hey, it’s 8 am and the world news is on. Will you look at that shirt tossed on the floor? Will teenagers ever remember to put things away? Maybe I’ll just throw all my stuff on the floor, too… Which reminds me, should I do the washing today or leave it for…um, hmmm…what was I doing before? Oh, yah, writing a post!
Motherhood and multi-tasking have probably always been synonymous, but nowadays everybody multitasks. Our kids are pros. Several chats go on simultaneously, while talking on the cell, watching TV, checking out a few you tube videos, listening to music, and doing their homework (kind of). Young people now include multi-tasking skills on their resumes because employers expect it. But is multitasking a good thing? Does it mean we get lots of things done at the same time? Yes and no. We’re getting lots done, but we’re getting it done poorly. The truth is our brains don’t like multi-tasking. They’re not designed for it.
The word ‘multitasking’ was created to refer to a computer’s capacity to perform several functions simultaneously. It was never intended to describe our brains. Studies are showing that multi-tasking diminishes the brain’s capacity to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information. We stop knowing what is important to pay attention to and we’re not even aware that it’s happening. Multitasking removes the filter, letting all the bits of information fly into our brains with equal status. As a result, we’re losing our ability to prioritize.
What’s ironic is that one of the biggest information age gurus, Steve Jobs, did not believe in multi-tasking at all. He would lock himself and his co-creators in a room for days at a time when he was under a deadline to complete a project, focusing solely on the task at hand and not allowing for a single interruption other than eating, sleeping and bathroom breaks.
Many more of history’s creative geniuses have commented on their unique abilities of concentration. I can’t imagine Shakespeare or Beethoven could create their masterpieces if they multi-tasked. Can you picture Beethoven composing the 9th Symphony while answering emails, checking his status, tweeting, chatting, watching a few shows, following the stock market, and checking tomorrow’s weather? That highly charged, creative energy that gives birth to great ideas is called ‘the zone’ (we know this word from athletes) and many artists, as well, rely on it to be inspired. It’s a place of total concentration and absorption. As Jobs pointed out, you can’t get there if your brain is spread out in a million different directions.
That said, I’m putting everything down and quieting my mind this morning. I will focus on one thing at a time. First (of course!) that cup of tea at the window where the birds are fighting to beat the cold at the bird feeders. Second, I’ll make a pot of our favorite soup in my family: Gypsy Soup. The following recipe is from the Moosewood Restaurant, a famous vegetarian haunt in Ithaca, New York.
We love this soup and it’s one of the few vegetarian dishes my meat-eating 16 year old devours. Have a great single-tasking day!
- 3 – 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 2 cloves crushed garlic
- 2 cups chopped, peeled sweet potatoes or winter squash
- ½ cup chopped celery
- 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
- ¾ cup chopped sweet peppers
- 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
- 3 cups stock or water
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Dash of cinnamon
- Dash of cayenne
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon tamari (soy sauce)
- In a soup kettle or large saucepan sauté onions, garlic, celery and sweet potatoes in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add seasonings, except tamari, and the stock or water. Simmer, covered, fifteen minutes. Add remaining vegetables and chickpeas. Simmer another 10 minutes for so – until all the vegetables are as tender as you like them.