My friend Michele Serchuk, a New York photographer, was talking with me about a new project of hers involving “modern fairy tales”. We were thinking of the ways that moral lessons were conveyed through the classic stories, and what modern lessons might be useful.
One in particular that came to mind was the idea of spreading yourself too thin. The danger of the Multi-tasking Monster, the Perfidy of Prowling Perfectionism, something like that. We speculated on the images that might illustrate the idea – something like the scene from the movie Brazil where a hero is overwhelmed by paper.
Shortly after that conversation I began Cal Newport’s new book, Deep Work. I have my own problems with Mr. Newport’s philosophy, but on the whole I agree that working in concentrated flow states is preferable to splitting attention and time among many different projects. Even worse is when you add in the distraction of social media, entertainment, the need to keep up and avoid FOMO, or whatever other demands you might put on yourself in your quest to be Good.
Or is that just me?
Regardless, I also noticed at the time that I was working on a whole lot of my own projects at once – not as many as my Ally, but still a lot. Meanwhile, there is one particular project that is looming on the horizon that required more immediate attention.
I realized that I had, thanks to Michele and Cal’s work, an early-warning sign and a chance to make a choice:
- I could continue to work incrementally on many projects, making the one big one more stressful, making minimal gains on the others, and increasing the odds that I would either do them poorly or miss things altogether.
- Or I could put all the other projects on hold, devote real time to both working on the main project and keeping myself rested and healthy and at the top of my game.
In other words, in stead of spreading myself thin, I could choose to spread myself thick over this one project and really bring it home strong.
Guess which one I chose?
Here’s my question: what do you have in your life that you could spread yourself thick on? Why not give it a try, and see how it changes the experience?
I promise, there’ll be plenty to thin you out later if you need it. Try some luscious focus, some decadent dedication to a single beautiful thing in your life. I think you’ll be glad you did.
I’d love to hear what you chose, and why you chose it.
Also, please send the post to a friend – the more the merrier!