How To Multitask

Salaryman asleep on the Tokyo Subway
Or: How To Be Extremely Busy

Wake up between 7 and 8 a.m. as per your usual wake up time, not by an alarm but by some anxious sort of internal day calendar that reminds you via a persistent feeling of urgency how busy you are and that there actually just isn’t enough time to do so many of the things you want to get done today. Be, basically, already in ‘work mode’ upon rising (like – literally upon sitting upright in your bed, be already in ‘work mode’), get out of bed, go to the kitchen, start the water for coffee, go to your desk and open your laptop.

Know for a fact that there are going to be at least four emails that will feel excruciatingly imminent and demanding an immediate reply waiting for you in your inbox, and so open your laptop, go to your email account and be surprised/ delighted/ horrified by the fact that there are 16 new emails, none of which are spam. Soak in the mild amount of adrenaline that’s just warmed your body. Scan the emails, unconsciously prioritizing on the basis of which need to be addressed first, hear the coffee water boiling in the kitchen, and start pounding out emails. As you’re pounding out emails, think exactly that – that you’re “pounding out emails,” but in a kind of passive way, as if you were an onlooker describing the scene in which you yourself are the subject.

After replying to your most important emails, get to work on the emails that actually require a certain amount of time and concerted effort to address, and become somewhat lost in an internal, angular conversation that seems something like a string of rapid-fire logical sentences, phrases and feelings that inform you – a human now breathing heavily and darting his eyes minutely in either a really simple or really complex interface with a machine, typing altogether much too hard and making way too many clicking noises with his… fingers. You smell a faint burning in the kitchen but again this olfactory information isn’t really coming into your conscious monologue because it (your rolling conscious monologue) is basically all-encompassing when it comes to your capacity for attention. Become completely plugged in while at the same time, on another conscious level, find yourself busy consuming secondary, background information such as your Twitter feed, Facebook News Feed, some article on Gawker, etc., during times when you’re waiting for other pages to load or waiting for someone to respond on Gcha–

Lose your train of thought. “What?” you say. “…burning? Is something burning?” your girlfriend says, who is somehow suddenly in front of you, in mid-sentence, you guess. “What?” you say, and then you realize that it actually smells like burning in your apartment – like, really bad. “Oh shit, the coffee!” you say, and you run to the kitchen to find the pot in which you were boiling water for coffee completely charred and smoking on the stovetop and actually starting to emit an extremely foul (and dark) cloud of noxious gas. “Jesus,” you say, and you throw the pot in the sink, turn on the cold water faucet and open the kitchen window. “Jesus, sorry,” you say to your girlfriend, who’s laughing, and whose laughing is quickly fading like some train rolling into the distance because you’ve actually forgotten about the entire girlfriend/ coffee incident and are now walking directly toward your laptop as if the machine itself was emitting a laser beam that was forcefully pulling not only your body to decrease the distance between itself and the machine but also your thoughts, which have again begun rolling over and over themselves in a sort of interminable loop of manic planning and strategy and ideas.

Upon reaching the machine once more give in completely to the comfortable demands of a shit ton of work and subsequently a full and engaged consciousness, and actually perceive the almost intoxicating/ pleasurable feeling of getting locked in again, like getting into a really intense conversation on cocaine, and let this pass until the next minor interruption, which will seem far away, unimportant and impossible-to-focus-on. At the end of the day, it is not the end of the day, because you check your email every 20 minutes, your pet of a machine open at all hours, signifying with some cute computer sound when it requires you. Give in to some alternative form of life (i.e. life without the laptop) only just before bed, when you put your laptop to sleep, and yourself the same. TC mark

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I am the co-publisher of Thought Catalog. Follow me on Twitter. I also use a pen name called Holden Desalles. Follow Brandon on Twitter or read more articles from Brandon on Thought Catalog.
  • statusandapager

    nice

  • https://twitter.com/#!/nvvmxac danne rassle

    go outside and get some fresh air you couch potatoes.

  • http://www.theuglynewyorker.com Stephanie Georgopulos

    need a xanax after reading

  • http://francelleisms.tumblr.com Francelleisms

    This is my life during the last three weeks of school overrun with final exams, papers and projects. Only I find myself investing in boxes of instant coffee instead of brewing my own (hey, it saves time) if nobody's willing to do a coffee run to the nearest cafe. Working with a laptop glaring at me the whole day gives me headaches and eyestrain, too. I've read that it's helpful to stare at a nice, warm shade of light green for a minute or so. A grassy lawn, a green sheet of paper on the corkboard or whatever. And at times, I don't even get to put my laptop to sleep anymore–I just fall asleep on the desk. My laptop = sleeping partner, seriously.

  • PERFECTCIRCLES

    This sounds like a personal hell.

  • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

    nice

  • http://twitter.com/lulabelleniche Gabrielle Bodek

    That internal alarm clock of anxiety is guaranteed to wake you up at least an hour BEFORE you intend to wake up. Expect heart to be pounding and curse coffee machine for not being faster and/or able to produce twice as much. Start wishing you had some cocaine instead because its much, much faster, then realize that adding such an expensive habit to your lifestyle will just require you to work more hours to provide for this addiction. Cry at the unfairness of it all.

  • http://brianmcelmurry.blogspot.com/ Brian McElmurry

    Professional. Liked the coffee/girlfriend part.

  • Jody Fossler

    good job

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