The Zen of Single-Tasking

The Zen of Single Tasking

Do you multi-task? Find yourself doing two (or three, or seven) things at the same time?

Honestly, I’d be surprised if you said no. Everyone does. It’s what we’re supposed to do. Right?


  • plan dinner while making breakfast
  • hang the washing while you talk to your partner
  • listen to a podcast while you exercise
  • talk on the phone while watching your kids play.

You multi-task because you’re clever. Because you’re efficient. You’re making the most of your time. You’re getting business sorted.

When you multi-task and tick items off your to-do list, you feel clever. You feel efficient. You feel like you’re making the most of your time.

But what about the other side of that coin?

Do you feel exhausted? Like you’re not doing anything well? Like you’re being torn in too many directions?

Despite what your overwhelmed, over-worked, over-committed brain may be telling you – you don’t need to do more.

You need to do less.

You need to focus on just one thing at a time.

You need to single-task.

We are told constantly that high-quality humans are efficient. They’re on top of things. He lives on 4 hours sleep a night. She manages a home, family and business. We’re told that if we want to emulate them, we need to do the same. In other words: we need to multi-task.

And, to be honest, there are times when we do. But not all the time.

It’s not about doing less.

It’s about choosing one task during the day.

It’s about being focused on that task and that task alone.

It’s about immersing yourself wholly and completely in experiencing it. Finding the Zen, the beauty, the JOY of mindfully finishing that task.

How to find the Zen in single-tasking

10 minutes is all you need. Even one minute will do if you’re that busy.

One minute of beautiful, meditative quiet in a day otherwise filled with the urgent need to be productive, to get things done, to prove our value.

Choose a task:

Pick one task you need to complete. Then, when the time comes to do that thing, simply devote yourself to it. Soak up every detail of it. Immerse yourself in your senses.

Are you hanging out the laundry?

Instead of planning dinner, or thinking about the meeting you have this afternoon, or what you will do when the kids wake from their nap, try this:

  • Focus on the fresh scent of the wet, clean clothes
  • The coolness of the damp fabric in your hands
  • The snap of the pegs on the line
  • The way the sunlight hits the linen
  • Appreciate that you make time to do this simple task so your family will have clean clothes

Make time for that to be the one thing you are thinking about. The one thing you are experiencing. The sole purpose of that moment.

And when you’re done, take a deep breath.

Then it’s back to the day. Back to keeping balls in the air, kids on swings, food in bellies.

Make it a ritual

If you can make this small ritual of single-tasking a part of your everyday, you are putting your well-being ahead of the busyness of our world. You’re acknowledging that there is more to life than churning through a to-do list and getting things done.

After all, this is why we’re on the path to a simpler life, isn’t it? So we can experience more of these moments every day. More simple pleasures. More little joys. More mindful intention.

When was the last time you found the beauty and the joy in an everyday moment? Was it raking the leaves? Cleaning the windows? Drinking a cup of tea?


17 Responses to The Zen of Single-Tasking

  1. It’s funny that you wrote about this now! It’s just what I’ve been focusing on in May. It has made me realize how much stress I’ve been adding on my own by constantly multi tasking. So I really agree with you on this one; do more single tasking!

  2. Hello! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay.
    I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

  3. Love the way you have written it down.
    I try to have my Zen moment every morning, when I have a shower. Enyoing the moment and not planning the day ahaed. I am for more relaxed starting the day

  4. This is so true! I am a classic multi tasker (so mucj so that I can’t watch TV / a movie without also reading something) but I felt such accomplishment on Saturday sorting my daughter’s clothes – wardrobe cleaned out of clothes that no longer fit and bagged up to hand on / donate, new or hand me downs all sorted out and either in her wardrobe or in distinct boxes rather than shoved into the cupboard. That was really it for the day, as far as achievements (not much else on the ‘to do’ list was done) but it was completed. And achieved.

  5. I’m horrible at multitasking and have found that I do much better focusing on one task at a time. When I single task I am able to complete that task in a shorter amount of time. I find that when I multi-task, several things are often left uncompleted.

  6. I know what you’re talking about but I don’t always do it. I try NOT to multi-task because I don’t do it well. Sometimes I actually focus on what I’m doing and I do feel that sense of calm you were talking about. I immerse myself in the task instead of just trying to get it done as fast as I can so I can get onto the next thing. I guess I should try to do that more often because it is a great feeling.

  7. Every morning I walk my little pug. I try to take that time to look at the new flowers blooming in the neighbors yards. Or stop and watch a squirrel scurrying around. I love to watch a bird with a worm. In the winter I find that I miss those little moments to just be part of the Earth and in the moment. Its my rare time to be at peace with my life.