I like doing laundry. There….I’ve said it. The older I get the more I like doing laundry. So this morning while I was doing the laundry, I was trying to figure out why I liked it so much. Here’s what I think…I think I like doing the laundry because it’s a singular task that has no outside distractions and results in the satisfaction of a job completed. I tried doing the laundry with my iPod one time and it ruined the whole experience.
I’ve even started to LIKE cutting the grass, digging in the garden and emptying the dishwasher. My wife’s very happy these days.
I guess that’s why I like doing cardio in the morning and road cycling. When I’m on the road pedaling, I don’t usually think of too much. Yesterday when I was riding my 30-miler, I conciously monitored my thoughts during the entire ride and was surprised to find out that when I “checked in” with myself that I wasn’t really thinking of anything. I wasn’t thinking about school, bills, Lynn being under the weather, my kids or even cycling. I was just pedaling, listening to my breath and enjoying the sensory input. Maybe that’s why I feel so good when I finish. It’s like a psychological power washing.
In fact, yesterday while monitoring my thoughts, I purposefully tried to think about a problem at work and couldn’t focus enough to worry about it. Later on down the road, my teaching colleague and riding partner, Steven, and I discussed something at work. Immediately after the words dissolved in the air, I ceased to think about it any more. Kinda weird, don’t you think?
I was listening to a Matt Richtel of The New York Times who wrote a book on digital overload on NPR”s Fresh Air. He cites studies that state that it’s impossible to truly multi-task. What researchers have found is that our brains can only consciously process one stream of information at a time. What multi-taskers are actually doing is switching very rapidly between tasks. What’s the difference you might ask? Well, the difference is that our efficiency in each of the singular tasks goes way, way down thus effecting the quality.
One day we were having a meeting discussing an important topic, while I was working at Capital One. It was a pretty laid back atmosphere then and one of our team was texting a friend back and forth on her cell phone. One of us asked her to put away the phone so we power through the issues and she got somewhat irritated and replied that she was multi-tasking. As the meeting went on however she repeatedly interrupted to ask questions that had been specifically addressed while she was “multi-tasking.”
I’ve talked about what great listeners my brother-in-law, Brian and my son Jack are in this blog. I have NEVER, I repeat NEVER talked to either one of them when they were doing anything else other than looking at me and listening. Jack told us the other day that he can’t even read his college material without closing his bedroom door, putting on classical music to drown out the ambient noise and sitting at a desk.
There’s something to said for that, I think. I don’t know if back in the day many cabins would have been built, crops planted or nations born if we had all these devices to distract us.
So in the spirit of the upcoming gift giving season may I suggest we give each other the gift of our singular attention.