So we’ve all heard the saying “opposites attract” and I think that may be the case for me and my husband Mark. While he and I have a lot in common, we are also wired very differently. And that’s a very good thing.

I’m kind of all over the place and Mark is pretty steady-eddy. I’ve often thought about what our lives would be like if we were both like me. Ugh. things would be very chaotic in our home. But If we were both like Mark (ugh again), things might get a bit too sleepy around here. I tend to be frenetic, overly optimistic and productive to the point of sheer exhaustion. He is generally very calm, focused and relaxed. When it comes to everyday mental health, it seems obvious that his way might be healthier, but I’m simply not wired that way. It doesn’t come naturally to me to be in the moment. In fact, I have to work really hard at it. I occasionally practice meditation and really enjoy gentle yoga but both feel counter to my being.

Single tasking for mental health

Recently, I was invited to attend a mindfulness workshop series. It was a lovely series and I’m trying to hold space for what I learned and use it in my everyday life. My biggest challenge so far has been the concept of single tasking, the act of focusing intently on one task at a time. What I have discovered is that I’m a chronic and perpetual multi-tasker. Not only is multi-tasking a daily habit for me, but I feel anxious when I’m not. I’ve read studies about women being more prone to multi-task than men. I’ve also read that’s not necessarily the case. I don’t know which is true, but I do know that for the Quons, Mark is a good single-tasker and I’m not.

Truth is, sometimes I think I’m being uber-productive but what I’m really doing is slowing down individual tasks and projects while creating more stress for myself in the process. For example, I burn things (like bacon and tortillas) trying to cook and work at the same. I also straighten up the bathroom while brushing my teeth and then have to brush my teeth longer because I realize I’m not doing a good job. There are plenty of examples, but I’ll spare you the details. If you’re anything like me, here’s an interesting article from Verywellmind: Single-Tasking for Productivity and Stress Management

One thing I’m learning is that single-tasking takes training. It’s about changing habits. Here’s an excerpt from an article that resonated with me:

“You may think you are a good multi-tasker, but science is showing that even if you are better at it than average, multi-taskers are more likely to be stressed than their single-tasking friends. Besides, none of us are actually very good at it. Our brains are not designed to do more than one thing at a time.”

— Joshua Becker, Here’s How to Train Yourself for Single-Tasking, Becoming Minimalist

I’m learning that when I bounce back and forth between projects (both work and creative), I often lose my momentum and  inspiration. I also make more mistakes. Our kids and I tease Mark about taking forever to push “send” or “purchase” online. His hand will hover over the button until one of us gets impatient and pushes it for him. That said, he rarely makes the wrong purchase. I’m constantly returning products and getting refunds. Maybe that’s also why he’s such a prolific songwriter. Once inspired, he usually falls into a groove until he has something very close to finished.. I have notebooks full of bits and pieces of songs I’ve started, but lose interest when I step away to throw in a load of the laundry.

I’m proud to say that I finished this article without getting up to silence the dishwasher which beeps constantly when the cycle’s finished… like it’s taunting me to multi-task. While I don’t expect to change my entire being, I do want to try to slow down a bit. I think working towards focusing on projects one-at-a-time might help me mind my mind.

Here’s another good article with some tips from Rescuetime Blog: Single-tasking: How to focus on one thing at a time, get more done, and feel less stressed.

Happy spring and be well.

Linda Quon is Vice President and Director of Communication at Quon Design and Communication. Linda is working to promote everyday mental health awareness in partnership with Deschutes County Health Services and Central Oregon Health Council — which includes providers and health advocates from Crook, Jefferson, and Deschutes Counties. Linda was born and raised in Southern California and moved to Central Oregon with her husband and two children in 2005. Her mother lived with Schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder and her oldest brother also experienced bi-polar disorder. With support from family, friends, therapists and primary care providers, Linda has been navigating the world of mental illness most of her life — including her own struggles with mild anxiety and depression. Linda is proud to work as an advocate for mental health and a blogger for Mind Your Mind Central Oregon.