In defense of multitasking

Many people dislike multitasking, and with good reason. If you try to do many things at once, you do them badly. And there is also the fact that it goes against the basic meditative practice of living in the moment. Multitasking is basically having your mind wander off to other things while you do something, but in a quasi productive way. But I have been thinking and came to the conclusion that multitasking might not be all that bad. If we take the confucianist idea that you should be moderate in everything, the proper conclusion would be that sometimes you should multitask, and sometimes you shouldn’t, the only question being one of moderation.

Let me give a personal example: I have a day job that takes between 4 and 6 hours every working day. I go to college too, which also takes some 3 hours per working day. In the evening, I hold instructions two times a week  (one “session“ lasting some 2 hours). On Saturday, I also have a job in the morning that takes 4 hours. Travelling between my home, college and jobs takes around 2 hours daily. I try to train Parkour for one or two hours every day, and Wing Tzun Kung Fu takes 2 hours three times a week. I also read, write, meditate, learn Japanese, practice sword fighting,  practice card magic, stretch, do Qi Gong, do strength sessions, take naps, cook, clean my house, do the laundry, wash the dishes, etc etc.


How the hell?

Sometimes it is like hell, I admit it. Bruce Lee’s idea of daily decrease is a bloody great idea, but it seems to me that the only thing I do is I increase the number of things I do. Sometimes it’s too much. Sometimes I just can’t cope with it all. But I know that the things I WANT to do are good things – and these things, unfortunately, don’t pay the rent or the food.  One day, hopefully. But at this moment, nope. I would rather quit my job (and fortunately, I won’t have one in two months meaning the ending of my economic incarceration) but right now it’s not an option. Taking into consideration that I don’t do anything truly important on my job, I started multitasking.

Just the other day, I was walking by the river, listening to the Pimsleur English – Japanese track and practicing the move in card magic called “the pass”.  Triple multitasking right there, bam! Don’t get me wrong: I’m NOT saying that multitasking is better than” being in the moment”. It’s not. Truly. Being in the moment is, in my opinion, way better than multitasking at everything. If you write, you only write. If you walk, you only walk. If you read, you only read. If you cook, you only cook. Being in the moment is being at peace and living completely Zen.

Sometimes there is just duty, and doing what you have to do. If throwing it away isn’t an option, you can only use it. And there are two ways of using it: being in the moment, savoring the moment, despite the fact that it’s not an activity you want to do OR multitasking and doing things that make you better as a person. Both of them go fine and both should be practiced. What I’m saying is that multitasking is also an option that can pay out nicely in some time.

I think I must have read at least 10 books on my jobs.

The problem arises, however, in the case when you lose control, and start escaping reality via multitasking. That’s not a good thing. But if you are in control, if you don’t let multitasking control you and keep controlling multitasking, then you can make the most of your time.

So, my concrete advice to you, reader, is the following: if you have a job that doesn’t fulfill you, leave it. If you can’t, or if you can’t at the time, either multitask or savor the moment. Do what you must, earn your wages, but advance as a person. Learn a language, stretch, draw, write, read, practice card magic. Living in the moment can be somewhat hard when you’re right inside the office (which you hate), but it’s possible – and it’s also a subject for a different text.


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