This morning I walked into the bathroom, turned on a Korean podcast, and started shaving my beard. My attention quickly drifted off the podcast to random plans for the day, or worries about this and that. I was multi-tasking, but was I gaining from it?

Half-assing 3 things

So here I was, taking care of a daily chore - shaving. It takes no mental focus really, so my mind is free to do something else with that time. And since lately I’ve been losing my Korean skills from lack of practice, why not pump some passive Korean through my brain to wake up those fading neurons? Reasonable plan.

But not even a minute passed before my mind was off in Wonderland, bouncing from “What should I do today?” to “Ugh… how am I going to make an appointment at the Colombian immigration office?” to whatever else I don’t remember.

As I finished shaving, I realized that I hadn’t benefited very much from my attempt to optimize my time. I had barely listened to the podcast. None of the idle thoughts that passed through were useful either.

The only thing I had done was bombard my mind with useless stimulation.

The anti-multi-task

Next up was brushing my teeth. I decided to try a different approach. I turned off the podcast. I focused my mind on the sensations of brushing my teeth. First, I focused on the feeling of the bristles rubbing over my gums.

I realized that it actually felt nice, and a little ticklish. I know it sounds silly, but it actually made me smile and giggle a little. I had a moment of real enjoyment there.

My toothbrush has these useless rubber flaps nestled between the bristles, and I noticed them making a squeaking sound as they slid over my teeth, something I hadn’t noticed before.

I focused on the pressure of my fingers on the handle, and relaxed them a bit - no need to grip so tightly.

By the time I was done brushing I simply felt good. As I rinsed my mouth, I focused on the intense feeling of the cold water swishing around. It was interesting - why had I never noticed before?

What if?

The question this raised in my mind is: “What if I treated more parts of my life like this?” How many fun and interesting experiences are hiding in the seemingly mundane parts of life? Perhaps all they need is a little attention.

I might send a newsletter sometime.