I wish I were a multi-tasker.
Particularly for the last month, I've tried to fill my days with pastimes that I'm proud to talk about. Reading, writing and running are the chief goals, but there are plenty of others, such as music and theatre. In short, I have a lot of commitments, and there are times when it would serve me best to be able to accomplish multiple things at once.
So I try to multi-task A and B. The problem is, it's not that I can do thing A and thing B at the same time. It's that thing B is shiny and distracting, and thing A goes undone.
In general, I'm better served by buckling down on A and telling myself that B will wait until I'm done. Certainly, I'm not always good at doing that. The most common example is when I'm sitting at my desk, working on a project, with another eye on my email inbox. I pride myself at getting back to folks quickly, but when the email comes in, I cut off whatever I'm working on and change over my attention. Sometimes it's hours before I see the open window on my screen and think, "What was I doing in that program?"
I don't think I'm the only person who works like this. Every day, I hear from someone who "doesn't have time" to do this or that, wishing that there could be more hours in every day to get things done. Often, one of the first things to get sacrificed will be a workout.
Recently, I've realized that running is the one place where I can truly multi-task. Sure, I can't return emails or read a book (I have no idea how those people at the gym can read on treadmills), but there are a lot of parts of my life that can happen while I'm pounding the pavement, because a lot of my life happens quietly in my brain.
This morning, for example, after another battle with my sleep-fogged brain, I managed to make it out the door for my run. As usual, my mind started wandering pretty quickly, and I explored all the dark places of my doubt before finding a way to be proud of the fact that I'd actually made it out the door. At some point, I turned to my schedule for the day, remembering that there is a performance of the play I'm in tonight. My train of thought took it from there:
I'm kind of glad I'm not onstage tonight, after a bit of a break, it'll be nice to see it again - wait, when am I on next - right, Saturday, we don't have a show tomorrow - I should spend tomorrow going over my lines - hang on a minute... I've got time right now!
I began to run the play, beginning to end, in my mind on the road. It's surprisingly difficult to keep focused, especially as my mind wanders off into the comedic bits and improv that will happen throughout Saturday evening, but I ended up getting through about 90% of the lines I'll have to speak on the night. I'd accomplished two things at once, and perhaps even better, I hadn't even noticed the last two miles of the run.
Whether I'm working on a new song, prewriting one of these blog posts, or trying to remember whether it's "your" or "thy" in a particular scene, a lot of the effort of my day is cerebral. Tying that to my physical workout is proving to find me a little extra time throughout the rest of the day.
And then I can single-task to my heart's content.