How a Broken Arm Changed My Life
And cured a case of chronic multitasking. You can too.
Man, did I have grand plans for 2017. I mean, I couldn’t wait to hit the ground running with a very full plate of flavorful projects waiting to be completed and/or started. Every day was Ready, Set, Go…
Then, on Christmas Eve, seven minutes after I arrived at my sister’s for the family celebration, I stepped around the back of the couch to slip my gifts next to the tree. Unfortunately, the only things that slipped were my feet on the hardwood floor, clean out from under me as I fell and broke my wrist, broke it badly in fact, both the ulna and radius bones, which meant surgery, which meant a steel plate holding my wrist together, which meant wearing a cast for weeks (albeit one in a pretty color), which meant having to learn how to use my left wrist and hand all over again.
Can you say Projectus Interruptus? It was more like Life Interruptus.
To say that starting this year with a broken wrist shook me would be an understatement. And what’s entirely laughable is how I tried to fight it, looking at it simply as an obstacle keeping me from doing ALL that I’m “supposed” to do. Laughable because that is one fight I was never going to win. When you have one usable hand there’s only so much you can do.
I had no choice but to just stop
What immediately started to happen? Fears started to bubble to the surface that once and for all I was required to recognize, study and distill. Fears about running out of time or of missing out on that next great idea or opportunity or, or, or…
And, it exposed something very big. It allowed me to take a hard look at myself as the chronic multitasker that I had become.
The multitasker moniker is one that I have worn loudly and proudly. I’d have a running to-do list, set multiple timers, creating fancy systems for said timers, jumping from one idea or one task to the next, and many times doing more than one of them at the same time. I definitely have a record of completing many of these tasks and getting things done and many of them fairly well. Crossing things off my to-do list, nirvana for multitaskers!
What happens as a result of chronic multitasking? Mediocrity becomes the norm. Things get done but excellence often is not reached. And, focus is splintered in a thousand different directions.
Research has shown that multitasking causes the brain to work at a lower cognitive level and over an extended period time keeps it at that level. So, then it’s harder to focus on projects that take a higher and deeper level of thinking and concentration. According to a Fast Company article “These Are the Long Term Effects of Multitasking,” multitasking actually has addictive effects on the brain, can diminish IQ and the constant “task-switch” leads to a destructive cycle of distraction that stops productivity.
So my broken wrist got me thinking about how the universe was giving me a very big message to slow down. To stay with the present moment and the present task at hand. The big Truth is that’s all there is, this moment, in this realm, in this space. And the truth is you can only accomplish one thing, well, at a time.
As a multitasker, I’d packed my plate with as many things as possible and when that plate was full I started another plate. It’s like continually going back to the buffet table that you know, even before you approach, is filled with delectable things you want to try. Things you know you don’t need, are not good for you and will derail you from your healthy Vision or Intention.
But after the break, if I attempted to carry my typically full plate with my only one good hand, there was no doubt it would come crashing down, shattering into a pile of chaotic unorganized mess that will be nothing short of sad and depressing!
Going From Multi to Monotasker
Being focused on one thing at a time means staying away from the buffet table and removing the distractions that steal focus. It’s like ordering from the menu the one thing that serves your vision or goal. And to help safeguard the commitment to being singly focused, if it’s actually a menu that you have pragmatically designed so that every item available to you serves your mission, then you’re in complete control of whatever goes on your plate on any given day.
So, for me I started by taking literally everything off of my plate and my buffet of a thousand projects. I spent hours meditating and getting back in deep touch with my core values and my core truths. And, then I just got quiet. I allowed my GPS to re-calibrate as my single task menu items floated to the surface. Then, I sat with those for awhile, then cut them down again. What came out of the process was a clean, simple plate with very few projects on it that I’m absolutely madly in love with.
And. It. Feels. Good. Really good.
Now, as physical therapy strengthens my wrist, I work to continually retrain my brain to stay focused on the one thing at a time. I’ve given up my place at the buffet table. I’m more cognizant of my electronics time so am mindful of distractions. And, I’m happy with what I’m doing.
Turns out, my broken wrist was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
Originally published at www.thoughtchangerblog.com.