Taking a Break from Multitasking

Actually, I’m recovering from an investment in the illusion that multitasking is even possible.

You may have noticed that ItalyWise has been quiet for the past couple of weeks. I took a real vacation with my dear sisters in a classic, shabby-chic beachfront cottage. I brought my computer and camera. I had visions of working on blog posts, taking and editing photos, catching up on emails, and working on my second novel. Big plans. Big ideas of dancing back and forth between tasks in such a tranquil setting would surely turbocharge my productivity.

Then, I realized I had been on the verge of burnout, and I needed a break badly!

I gave myself permission not to do all of the above. I let myself off the hook for daring to commit the cardinal blogging sin of going silent for two whole weeks. I took a few family photos and offered a bit of technical computer instruction to my sisters who have burgeoning interests in photography. That was it. I unplugged. I took walks on the beach. I turned my mind off about 80% of the time (a real feat). I played games. I laughed.

I also realized my idea of multitasking needed to be jettisoned.

Vacations are great for catching up on sleep and letting go of the responsibilities of our daily grooves. They’re also great for stepping outside of ourselves, looking in, and hitting the reset button if needed. I saw that I’d been spreading myself too thin and was too much in “gotta achieve as much as possible” mode. The telltale sign? A knot of constriction in my chest.

“Slow down, you move too fast”

The words from “Feeling Groovy”, one of my favorite Simon & Garfunkel songs, kept repeating themselves. And, I pondered the words of Robert Browning, “Less is more.”  I think there’s something important contained in these three simple words.

Have we all been hoodwinked into believing that we need to tackle life while accomplishing as much as possible simultaneously in order to be a success? Can we do more, can we realize better results when we calmly take one thing at a time?

How do we rewire our brains? How do we withdraw our belief in a concept that has been proven false, time and time again?

Consider this online article by Nick Morrison at Forbes: 

The Myth of Multitasking And What It Means For Learning

The engineering and analytical part of my brain (thanks to my nuclear engineer father) loves the science and research that helps break apart mistaken notions.

In finding an appropriate photo for this post, I came across a recent photo I took of Italian multitasking—a gondolier passes the grocery, navigates a narrow passage, and ducks under a bridge, all with a cell phone glued to his ear. Yes, multitasking, or what I call “fractured attention” exists everywhere, even in Venice.


By |2019-01-17T23:02:02+01:00September 7th, 2018|Color, Personal musings|17 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. royane September 9, 2018 at 11:33 pm - Reply

    Hey! a note just to tell you I have not commented much on your blogs but they are so important to me and especially this one. We leave or out little 2 room apartment in southern Italy tomorrow. We are in Florida most of the year and hurricanes are threatening, but then they always hit when we are in Pisticci! Your painting on this blog is just beautiful! so happy to be seeing you and reading you!

    • Jed September 11, 2018 at 6:32 pm - Reply

      You’re so kind, Royane! I suspect you’ve now made your way back home and are recovering from jetlag. Thank goodness the current hurricane, Florence, isn’t headed towards Florida! Thanks for writing!

  2. Christina September 8, 2018 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    Jed, your message is well written and much needed. I love your storytelling and prose to get your point across. As I’m reading it I’m mourning the fact that this year we won’t be in Italy during September/October when we are usually there. I needed time to finish my cookbook and at the same time have foot surgery (which went well and I’m looking forward to walking again). And I’m reading your article and taking in all it meant to you to realize you needed to slow down, and in a nanosecond I think to myself – oh I need to check a name for a new website for the book, and check how many blogs I have queued for the next few weeks, and, and, and… all of a sudden my brain has left your article yet my eyes are peeled on the words “Slow down you’re moving too fast” (love that song by Simon & Garfunkel too). So, thank you, thank you for sharing your struggle and helping us look at ourselves and evaluate that maybe, just maybe we are going through the same struggle.

    • Jed September 9, 2018 at 7:44 pm - Reply

      Ciao Christina,
      I’m so pleased to hear that your foot surgery went well! I once sprained my ankle (no comparison) and being sidelined by a weight-bearing part of the body is no fun. Glad you’re walking again.
      Thanks for your encouragement. It’s tempting at times to crow about all the romantic aspects of my life in Italy, but since I also left a life-long career of doing, going, doing, my journey now is so much about being, being, being! It’s nice to know that many of us struggle with similar things. Thank God for songs that help remind us to wake up (and laugh at ourselves)!

  3. Michelle September 8, 2018 at 11:39 am - Reply

    Si. I’m looking forward to all it has to teach me.


  4. Kevin September 8, 2018 at 6:13 am - Reply

    Hey Jed…Amy often mentions… La dolce far niente…. the sweetness of doing nothing. I really like your take and think this is yet another way Italians, at least traditionally, have excelled. This said, I’m seeing a lot of distracted people during this vacation…just like the gondolier. Connectivity and entertainment seem to be another common thread. Glad to hear you’ve taken a true break from your usual pace. Right now we wait to get off the ferry in Livorno….we are waiting to let the mad rush happen…then will disembark…more in line with what you suggest! 🙂

    • Jed September 8, 2018 at 10:31 am - Reply

      I always look forward to your comments and your experiences, Kevin! I’d love to hear more about your experience in Sardegna and how it contrasts (or not) with your mainland experience!

  5. Robin September 7, 2018 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    So happy to hear you had a relaxing vacation with your two sisters. Sounds like great fun, to get away and unwind for two weeks! XXo, R

    • Jed September 7, 2018 at 9:10 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Robin. It was heavenly. Learned from some neighbors (upstairs) how to play a new version of Boule (like Bocce)! But, unplugging and looking out at the ocean with very few people around was incredible. Perfect weather, too! Bacioni!

  6. Elizabeth Wholey September 7, 2018 at 6:13 pm - Reply

    Good for you, hope you laughed a lot, what we used to call at my office an endorphin break!

    • Jed September 7, 2018 at 9:08 pm - Reply

      I love that! An endorphin break. Or a break from too much adrenaline! Miss you!

  7. Anne Marhis September 7, 2018 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    I can surely say that I am the Queen of multi-tasking but I can not say I am good at it! When life presents endless possibilities it’s hard to prioritize sometimes. I am a n avid student of Abraham Hicks and encourage folks to just YouTube her sessions. Very helpful for us folks who struggle to prioritize.

    Cheers, Anne

    • Jed September 7, 2018 at 9:07 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Anne. As a creative person I am blessed with the ability to see tons of creative options. I’m cursed with trying to do them all at once!

  8. Michelle September 7, 2018 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    Caro Jed,

    I love your blog and appreciate very much the care you take in relaying your stories. Thank you for posting.
    I took interest in this article because I, myself, am currently going through a period of resting. The biggest challenge that I have had to overcome was the urge to “look busy”. I thought about it in this way precisely because of the above photo that you took. As human beings, there will always be moments that require us to do more than one thing at a time – and I think that those moments are perfectly natural and that we should be grateful for the capacity to handle many things at once if necessary (like cooking!). On the other hand, I think we’ve been hoodwinked into believing that our self-worth is directly linked to how “busy” we are each day. The perceived difference between having “alot” to do and having “nothing” to do. “Busy-ness” can lead to productivity, of course, when well-structured and managed, but that is the opposite of filling our time with “doing things”. “Busy-ness” makes us less productive because we’ve given ourselves such a long list of things to do, we get stressed out about the volume of things to do and the small window of time in which we’ve given ourselves to do them. Then we beat ourselves up about not getting it all done. Many of the things on our to-do lists can, in all reality, wait. Living life and working at a job should incorporate two different mindsets. The mindsets, however, have been merged into one – making living life in many cases alot of work.

    The biggest lesson that I think that I have learned is how to recognize “busy-ness” in my life and how to let it go. That’s why I’m looking forward to living in Italy (Sardinia), where living slowly is a way cherished way of life.

    Peace and blessings 🙂

    • Jed September 7, 2018 at 9:05 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Michelle, for adding so richly to this topic. Italian life (aside from the highways) really can teach a person about slowing down! Sardegna is so rich in laid back living. You will have hit the jackpot!

  9. Chip Meeks September 7, 2018 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    Another good timely post Jed. Glad to read that you and your sisters had a good visit at the beach and you were able to “cool your jets!” Chandler has tried to warn me more than once that I can’t multitask (f+×÷%_r!) but alas, he’s right. We really can do more when we focus on the task at hand and really nothing else. And when finished, relax and let our minds “breathe” for a few minutes! The next “Tasker” will arrive shortly, with or without encouragement! Have a great weekend!

    • Jed September 7, 2018 at 9:03 pm - Reply

      We had an awesome time. We still know the full meaning of “play!” Funny how we convince ourselves that we’re the exception to the multitasking role. When I slow down and focus on one thing I’m amazed at the result vs. frantically attempting to do it all! Have a great weekend too, Chip!

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