Sometimes things get done better when you’re doing something else…

Helen Dardik - "The Colors of Denial"

I’m a chronic multitasker.  And with my IPad…forgettaboutit…I’m like a grasshopper flicking from blade of grass to blade of grass…from my growing list of half finished books on my Kindle app to “Words-with-Friends” to Yahoo Mail to my Blog and back through the doom loop again.  Horrible gadget that I can’t seem to dislodge from my hand.  (Please…please tell me that I’m not alone here).

And then you have wave after wave of productivity gurus who pour it on stating that we are less productive when we multitask– this all has my guilt-o-meter raging.  Yet, I can feel the drip, drip, drip of the recent research turning in my favor.   This reminds me of the margarine-being-better-than-butter theories which were later turned upside down.  Or, reminds me of the famous quote: “What is, let it be.”  (Source: I just made this up. How profound one can be when rationalizing.)

Yes, I can hear all of you armchair psychologists out there chirping that the man is simply feeding his “confirmation bias.”  That is, I’m selectively hearing what I want to hear in order to support my multitasking habit.  That’s me.  Yes, I’m gobbling up the recent research on distraction-is-good for me.  And you know what, I LIKE IT.   And if you caught the paradox between this rant  and the caption title in Helen Dardik’s illustration above, an extra 100 points for you.  There is a part of me that may be a wee bit wrong here.  Nonetheless, onward.  Confirmation basis and all – we push on.

Here’s a few tasty morsels from the NY Times (the fountain of all knowledge) article titled: The Art of DistractionA Flighty Mind Might Be Going Somewhere.  Is Our Focus on Focus misguided?  It is authored by Hanif Kureishi, a playwright, filmaker, novelist and short-story writer.  And naturally, I’m sharing only the excerpts from this article that support my personality disorder.

…I thought about the virtues of being focused and what could be achieved with the full beam of concentration, within an intense, charmed circle of attention, when the mind, feeling and will are linked (this was the author’s point of when he was younger and often distracted)

…For me, now, things do get done; books are finished, and other projects are started that are also finished. They take the time they take, and the breaks are as important as the continuities. Only a fool would think that someone should be able to bear boredom and frustration for long hours at a time and that this would be an achievement.

…WHAT I might have said that it is incontrovertible that sometimes things get done better when you’re doing something else. If you’re writing and you get stuck, and you then make tea, while waiting for the kettle to boil the chances are good ideas will occur to you. Seeing that a sentence has to have a particular shape can’t be forced; you have to wait for your own judgment to inform you, and it usually does, in time. Some interruptions are worth having if they create a space for something to work in the fertile unconscious. Indeed, some distractions are more than useful; they might be more like realizations and can be as informative and multilayered as dreams. They might be where the excitement is.

…You could say that attention needs to be paid to intuition; that one can learn to attend to the hidden self, and there might be something there worth listening to…A flighty mind might be going somewhere.

…I might have been depressed as a teenager, but I wasn’t beyond enjoying some beautiful distractions. Since my father had parked a large part of his library in my bedroom, when I was bored with studying I would pick up a volume and flip through it until I came upon something that interested me. I ended up finding, more or less randomly, fascinating things while supposedly doing something else. Similarly, while listening to the radio, I became aware of artists and musicians I’d otherwise never have heard of. I had at least learned that if I couldn’t accept education from anyone else, I might just have to feed myself.

…As we as a society become desperate financially, and more regulated and conformist, our ideals of competence become more misleading and cruel, making people feel like losers. There might be more to our distractions than we realized we knew. We might need to be irresponsible. But to follow a distraction requires independence and disobedience; there will be anxiety in not completing something, in looking away, or in not looking where others prefer you to. This may be why most art is either collaborative — the cinema, pop, theater, opera — or is made by individual artists supporting one another in various forms of loose arrangement, where people might find the solidarity and backing they need.


Related Post: Harvard Business Review –  Three Skills Every 21st Century Manager Needs

Source: thegoodenoughpastor – inspiration on Confirmation Bias


  1. no…you are certainly not alone! I really love that artwork too!


  2. Kindred spirit here…..I told a friend the other day that I think I have a serious personality disorder. I cannot stop planning, creating, project-ing,reading, words with friends-ing. I’m always connected (ALWAYS). I’m done reading self-help books – there is no help for this self!! LOL!!. The third excerpt speaks to me! Thank you if for nothing else the validation that I am not alone!



  3. It’s all about moderation.
    Blah, blah, blah.
    : )


  4. Lorne Kanigan says:

    With you bro. How can you not multitask today? if you want to get a head and achieve more success we are going to want to read more, learn more and do more in all areas of your life. BTW the picture above reminds me of the velvet like posters I used to color when I was really young of cars, people etc and they changed colors. Bizarre!!


  5. I sure hope multitasking is the way to go. Because I can’t stop doing it, at this point… :/


  6. Rant on, dear David! 🙂


  7. One way of looking at this might be through the good old Myers Briggs lens. From reading your posts, I’d say you are an ENTP (forgive me if I am wrong, it’s always a risky business to try and second guess it). Certainly a P (Perceiver): preference for spontaneity, love of distractions, last minute adrenalin-rusher, how much can I get done today, competitive with yourself, everything a game.

    So the ordered and structured “one thing at a time” world of the J (Judging) is not necessarily right, it’s just different. Your way is not wrong, it’s just not the J way. No need to feel guilty about not being one of “them”: you are who you are, you recognise it (hence this post), and you can allow yourself to be comfortable with it. It works.

    I wonder how many of the people who commented (who seem to largely support you) also have a Perceiving preference. Me for one, who loves the excuse to be distracted in writing a comment when I should be doing yesterday’s invoice.

    Carry on, sir, you are capable of amazing productivity, and if it gets done a bit spontaneously, that is absolutely fine.


    • Michael, I am squarely, without any gray area, an ISTJ. At least I thought I was — and now you have me wondering. (topic future post) Your words above inspire me. Thank you. Dave


      • ISTJ, huh? Now you’re surprising me. Really you are. From every Blog I have read since I started following you (quite recently), I see an Intuitive, a Feeler and a Perceiver. Oh yes, and a big time Extrovert. In other words opposite to your ISTJ. Makes me wonder whether the home and work versions of you are somewhat different? The real you coming through on the Blog, and the “work version” of you being the one you profiled yourself as on MBTI?

        Oooh, food for thought, and all sorts of questions around how much more of the real you could be allowed out to play at work? How authentic is the work version of you, etc etc. As you say, material for future Blogs?!


      • Hmmmm. You know me better than I know myself! 🙂


  8. Beautiful post!!!


  9. My best writing gets down while I am working on animal training or physical fitness! I believe you can see that displayed all the time at! Check out what I mean, okay?


  10. From one multitasker to another jumping from blade of grass….
    You are not alone! Great Post. Well Put. Kristin @ Let Life In Practices (and continue to multitask if it works for you!)



  1. […] (not surprised that I did though since I multitask at EVERYTHING and share this sentiment with David Kanigan), but I certainly did this time. And here was the […]


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