3 Things to Do Instead of Multitasking

3 Things to Do Instead of Multitasking

Not a newsflash: Multitasking is bad for you. 

You know this, I know this, and yet…I can’t help myself. 

New episode of The Amazing Race? Bring on the snacks. 

Walking somewhere? Earphones in, automatically. 

I’ve decided it’s time to train my brain to focus, be patient, and do one thing at a time. 

Instead of just internally yelling at myself to focus focus focus, I’ve identified three alternatives for multitasking. Three actual, tangible tasks to bring me back to the present.

3 Things to do instead of Multitasking

1. Notice Things.

Here’s a fun game, as simple as it sounds: notice things. 

Notice your surroundings

At Oxford I remember standing outside college on Turl Street, waiting for a friend for lunch. I resisted the urge to pull out my (flip) phone, instead challenging myself to look at the buildings in front of me, follow the ivy curling up the walls. Was there always a clock there?

As an undergraduate, I kept reminding myself to drink in Oxford’s beauty with the urgency I felt as a teenage summer student, in awe of my first visit, knowing that in a few short weeks I might never return (but I did; yay). It’s the perfect place to be stressed because its scenery will hit you over the head until you finally stop to appreciate it.

Find beauty in any place

Even if you’re not in an obviously attractive place, remember that your experience is shaped by what you pay attention to. Notice the breeze. Notice the lettering on a sign you glance at every day. Notice how the leaves on the tree are different from the day before.

If you’re on a screen, notice what’s on the screen.

I’m tempted to switch tabs when I’m watching YouTube, particularly something like the Pretty Little Liars After Show, because they’re just talking. 

So I play the noticing game and analyse the ladies’ awesome outfits. I appreciate the art of their eyeshadow. I pay attention to the fun props. I make eye contact through the screen and deepen my commitment to connection. 

Stuck in a bad movie, my mind drifts to my to do list. I opt out in my mind, deciding that what’s in front of me is not worth my attention. My concentration becomes divided, trying to ignore the film in front of me [with that blasted immersive surround sound], trying to keep track of the thoughts whirling through my brain. 

I get stressed. My body gets physically tense. Better to focus on something, anything that involves engaging with what is in front of me. If the story is sour, note the costumes and set details. Pay attention to the accents and voices. The soundtrack. Play along at least peripherally. 

3 Things to Do Instead of Multitasking

2. Breathe.

All it takes is a little whisper: breathe.

Hey self? You know that thing you do all day to stay alive? Why not do it fully?

When I notice my breath, I’m surprised by how shallow and short it is, especially when I’m tense from trying to do too many things at once.

Enjoy the luxury of a lungful of air (or two). It’s free after all, and much more scrumptious than scrolling mindlessly through screens will reward you. 

This one requires credit to Kitty Cavalier for teaching me how to 💕romance my breath💕, for insisting on starting all her Vérité sessions with that dreaded deep breathing until it finally sunk in that yes this is a very good idea.

3 Things to Do Instead of Multitasking

3. Take Illustrated Notes.

Here’s one I learned from my friend [and illustrated Instagram queen] Helen – take notes and doodle at the same time – with purpose!

I’ve started watching webinars and listening to information-filled audios with pen in hand and enough paper to scribble on for days. It’s joyous fun, good practice for my dream of drawing like a Pixar artist, and my notes are so cute I can’t help but revisit them over and over.

I’m a visual person, and I find glancing at illustrated notes SO much more effective than the usual linear format.

Having a pen in hand make me more attentive and engaged. Taking illustrated notes is a perfect complement to a focused active listening session. Much better than tuning in to a podcast on the go and stopping to tap notes on my iPod in a rush – notes that I’ll probably forget to return to!

Let me know – have you been bitten by the Multitasking bug? How do you hurry it away?

P.S. Only a few spots left for my San Francisco tea party on 11 June! Will you be joining us?

An invitation to tea

Give Yourself Space for Creativity

Give Yourself Space for Creativity

I get my best ideas in the mountains. 

Or even on a long car journey to the mountains.

I am most creative on an early Monday morning. 

I keep a notepad nearby to jot down ideas, and the page fills up by my first Pomodoro. I may be most productive on a Friday afternoon, with the urgency of my personal deadline looming, but I’m most creative on a Monday, with the whole week ahead of me. My mind has freedom to roam.

Give Yourself Space for Creativity

What mountains and Mondays have in common [besides the letter M] is SPACE.

On a long journey, my mind has time to be free. To let go of tasks. To exhaust busyness and let my mind wander. No obligations, no distractions.

On a Monday I can stretch out. I have a sense of unhurried-ness. Calling it procrastination would be stifling; what it really is is possibility. The dam is unblocked and the flood of ideas pours through: I could do so many things! 

By the end of the week I am too focused on crunch time. 

I push those thoughts out of my head before they hit the page – sometimes before they are even fully formed. They probably get pushed to the Monday part of my brain; I don’t know how that works.

Realisations like this remind me of why I’m a minimalist. 

Minimalism is having space to explore and freedom to breath. When my home is tidy, my eyes don’t dart around to the clutter. When my wardrobe is tiny, I work solely with pieces I love. Minimalism makes it easier to focus, but it also provides the space essential for creativity: fewer choices, fewer things to remember, more time and space for creativity to seep in. 

P.S. There’s more on my minimalist journey and how it opened up room for opportunity in my ebook, Own Your Story.

The Very Best of Alan Rickman

Dear friends, my heart is broken. Alan Rickman has been my favourite actor for as long as I can remember having a favourite actor. As a kid, so much of my world was broadened by Harry Potter. I read certain books because Jo Rowling cited them as favourites. I started reading fashion magazines because Emma Watson was on the cover of Teen Vogue. I wasn’t really into watching movies until I decided to explore my favourite Potter actors’ greater works – especially Mr Rickman’s.

I truly believed that I would see him onstage at some point. I was waiting to drop everything and fly to London or New York to see him perform. Since Gambit my friend Emma and I had a longstanding agreement that she would own a theatre that he would be starring in, and we would all meet at an opening night reception – she would calm his nerves as he worried about what I, a revered theatre critic would say of his performance. Some part of me never let go of this ridiculous fantasy.

Over the years I have collected favourite performances of Alan’s. It is not an exhaustive list, as, fortunately, there are still films I have yet to explore. So here is my Introduction to Alan Rickman.

The Severus Snape: The Harry Potter Series

The Very Best of Alan Rickman

Did you know that Jo Rowling specifically requested Alan Rickman as a casting choice for Snape? He was filled in on Severus’s backstory when cast, long before it was revealed to the world – and my god, it shows. It was through Harry Potter that many of us were introduced to Alan Rickman, so I’m starting the list here. Ob-viously.

The Super-Villain: Die Hard & Love Actually

The Very Best of Alan Rickman

My two favourite Christmas movies! Hans Gruber in Die Hard is perhaps my favourite villain of all time – and I was truly impressed with Rickman’s fluency for accents. While Hans Gruber is a villain I love to hate, Rickman’s character in Love Actually is utterly despicable. No one messes with Emma Thompson, not even you, Alan.

The Sardonic SciFi-er: Galaxy Quest & The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Very Best of Alan Rickman

Science Fiction takes itself so seriously, which is why Galaxy Quest, a parody of the genre, is such gold. Who better to play the sardonic alien than Alan Rickman. In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, he voices Marvin the endearingly depressed robot. I could play those clips all day. (Also that film features before-they-were-THAT-famous Martin Freeman and Zooey Deschanel).

The Sultry Singing Voice: Sweeney Todd

What is better than Alan Rickman’s voice? Alan Rickman’s singing voice. As we have already determined, he plays an excellent evil-doer, so of course he would be cast as the evil, creepy, lecherous Tim Burton villain Judge Turpin in that masterpiece of a musical Sweeney Todd. This is one of my favourite films EVER and I saw it because of him (and his Death Eater co-star Helena Bonham Carter). It was also my introduction to Jamie Campbell Bower. I would watch the scene of the two of them on repeat. Just. Brilliant.

In Sense & Sensibility

The Very Best of Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman as a Jane Austen hero. Proving that yes, he can do anything. Colonel Brandon is the best man in Austen, and I’m pretty sure Alan Rickman’s performance may be playing a factor in that claim. He is the secret romantic, the guy next door, if ever a Colonel were one. Also, he’s much nicer to Emma Thompson in this one.

The Lovable Dead Cellist: Truly Madly Deeply


I had to break the alliterative pattern for this one because how else do I describe Rickman’s character in this one? He plays the ghost of his widow, back to just hang out all day with his cello. Heartbreaking and also kind of funny.


Texas – In Demand. from Rokkit on Vimeo.

Alan Rickman – In Demand Texas from Alan Rickman on Vimeo.

Yes. That’s right. Alan Rickman as the romantic interest of Texas’s music video for “In Demand”. I can’t listen to that song without thinking of him at a gas station. It is so great.

Others I haven’t even seen!

The Very Best of Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman plays the voice of god in Dogma, takes on a Southern American accent in Something the Lord Made, and won a Golden Globe for Rasputin. So much more to explore.

Oh my. Reflecting on so much awesomeness has helped me feel better (I really wasn’t doing so great). I hope this list helps you discover another side to the great Mr Rickman.

To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.


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