Penny, the visiting dachshund, at great inconvenience to herself and her paws, cheers up senior residents.   (pictures by Marylin Warner)

Penny, the visiting dachshund, at great inconvenience to herself and her paws, cheers up senior residents. (pictures by Marylin Warner)



Slowing down on a road where the Amish drive their carriages is an example of making the day better for others.

Slowing down on a road where the Amish drive their carriages is an example of making the day better for others.


The first published use of the term “multitask” was in 1965, describing the capabilities of the IBM System/360. The term became a popular description for anyone who was busy but talented and could successfully complete numerous responsibilities at the same time.

My mother wasn’t impressed. Her philosophy was that of course busy women handled many tasks simultaneously because many things had to be done. But for the truly important things in life—and in the lives of others—wise women knew the importance of slowing down, paying attention and giving each situation the care it required.

She would have loved the hand-painted sign I recently saw in a women’s clothing and accessories shop: “MULTI-TASKING IS THE ART OF MESSING UP SEVERAL THINGS AT ONCE.”

If it weren’t for Mom’s advanced dementia, I think she would wholeheartedly support February 24th’s SINGLE TASKING Day. Recent studies show that multitasking is often inefficient, stressful and mind divisive, while Single Tasking encourages us to embrace one priority and stay with one task until it is accomplished.

Strangely, though, February 24th is a day with multi-tasking opportunities. It is also INCONVENIENCE YOURSELF Day: focus less on yourself and make the day better for others; put on a happy face and find ways to practice random acts of helpfulness. And then reward yourself by also celebrating NATIONAL CUPCAKE Day on the 24th (It’s Canadian, but I’m certainly up for supporting this special day.)

My mother is in the stage of dementia when she no longer eats much. One of her favorite caregivers, Tammy, has created a food Mom really enjoys: pancakes with creamy peanut butter and syrup. Not the most balanced, nutritional meal, but under the circumstances my vote is that at 96 Mom can eat whatever she wants. Plus, I’m sure it’s also in support of the longer version of NATIONAL PANCAKE WEEK, which is February 15-21.

And I’m very grateful that Tammy is a wise woman who knows the importance of slowing down, paying attention, and giving my mother’s situation the care it requires.

To support the special Canadian cupcake day, he'll gladly eat some cupcakes!

To support the special Canadian cupcake day, Gannon will  gladly eat some cupcakes after he finishes his task!


Five-year-old Gannon Single Tasks by sprinkling grass seeds without giving in to distractions.

Five-year-old Gannon Single Tasks by sprinkling grass seeds without giving in to distractions.



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, Special days in February, special quotations

60 responses to “SINGLE-TASKING

  1. Amanda

    We are all very grateful for Tammy! This place would not be the same without her!

    • Molly


      Thank you for all you do to take care of our Grandma!

      You are amazingly caring, compassionate and knowledgeable.

      Thank you!

  2. Absolutely, Amanda. I have this great picture of Tammy patiently trying to feed Mom, but for some reason it will not post.
    Thank you for this comment. You all do a terrific, much appreciated job with my mother, and your support of each other is very important. I’ll see you soon!

  3. juliabarrett

    I’m assigning myself the single task of baking cupcakes on single task day. What a lovely idea! I’ll think of you and your mom while I’m baking them.
    Those pancakes actually sound very nutritious. Smart caregiver.

  4. She is a smart caregiver, Julia. And down to earth, kind and practical…and very relaxed and patient with my mother. What else can you hope for?
    I love cupcakes–my current favorites, I’m embarrassed to admit, are bacon-maple–so I’m more than happy to join Canada’s Feb. 24th Cupcake Day!

  5. I had never seen the Slow-down-for-Amish-Buggies sign though you would think there would be plenty in Lancaster County, PA. Charming as well as protective!

    Just now I am finishing Louise DeSalvo’s The Art of Slow Writing. No surprise, her thesis insists that ideas take time to incubate, marinate, percolate. And she took lots of time to research the book, filled with allusions to varied authors and their work habits.. If you haven’t read it, it’s pithy but with a readable, sometimes conversational, style.

    The cupcakes are adorable!

    • This Amish Buggy sign is posted along a side road in Bourbon County, southeast Kansas, in a farming area near the town where I grew up.
      DeSalvo had an article in one of the writing magazines several years ago, and it was an excellent intro for Slow Writing. Now with your endorsement of the book, Marian, I’ll get the book. I liked her writing ver well.
      These “fishy” iced cupcakes were so cute…and really good, too! Unfortunately, I have a weakness for cupcakes… 😉

  6. Don

    Great post Marilyn. That sign with those words in the shop you described does it for me. It just puts into words something I have always felt. Let me say, I’m all for single tasking.
    I Agree with you, at 96 your Mom can eat anything she likes. 🙂 What a grand lady she must be at that age. My mom-in-law is now 92. Still going strong.

    • Don

      Sorry spelt your name wrong in the comment, Marilyn. Forgive me. 🙂

      • Not a problem, Don. We’ll blame it on my sweet mother. 🙂
        Her name is Mary, and she named me Marilyn, but wanted it spelled like hers so she reversed the y and the i and spelled it Marylin.

    • Don

      Did it again. It’s this predictive text, Marylin Sorry. 🙂

    • Unfortunately, dementia has taken a truly grand lady and now her most vivid memories are of life growing up on the family farm in Missouri, Don. But she’s still pleasant, kind, sometimes feisty and funny, and yes, I definitely thinks she should have anything she wants to eat.
      I’m glad your mother is still going strong.

  7. I do much better when I focus on one thing at a time. Baking cupcakes sounds good. Have a wonderful weekend.

  8. Pancakes or cupcakes, they both deserve single minded concentration.

  9. jakesprinter

    Thanks for sharing this article Marylin, I really enjoy the variety of food ..actually yummy,my friend.

  10. To everything there is a season – and a time for single-tasking too! Isn’t it just called “concentration”?

    • I think so, too. And I never really “got” multi-tasking. If you’re doing several things at the same time, isn’t at least one thing at a time getting your full attention? I can clean or bake at the same time I carry on a conversation or sing along to music, but beyond that, it’s pretty much concentrating on one thing.

  11. With each post, your mother’s wisdom is revealed, Marylin. I love that your mother wasn’t impressed by multitasking women. I agree, the more I try to do at one time, the less I seem to accomplish. Slowing down and focusing on one thing or person results in a more peaceful life. Thanks for sharing this.

    • You’re welcome, Jill.
      And while my mother seemed to get many things done each day, she really did prioritize them and focus on them one at a time–even if only a short time–to get them accomplished. And by the end of each day, she was humming in the kitchen as she cooked, smiling and peaceful.

  12. I agree with you in multi-tasking. I do it but I hate it. I LOVE to when i just one thing to focus on.

    • My big multi-tasking triumph, Elizabeth, is that I can fold laundry and listen to the evening news and weather. But I have to admit that if I get involved in the news, the laundry takes a really long time to fold. 😉

  13. I suppose it depends on how you define multi tasking. If I put a load of washing in the machine, boil the kettle to make a cup of tea while I make the beds, this is multi tasking. Conversely, if my husband does the same three jobs, he would probably wait till each one is done before embarking on another. I call this wasting time. Am I splitting hairs? Probably – apologies. As usual, you make us think, Marylin!

    • You’re not splitting hairs, Jenny, but I am laughing at your example. It shows how mothers who also write and work outside the home keep on the move and juggle a lot of balls during the day. 🙂

  14. I’d have made a terrible woman since I can’t multi task for the life of me. To be honest, even one is a struggle sometimes. I’m so glad your Mom’s caregiver is finding things she likes to eat and getting it instead of offering the standard fare.That shows some dedication to those she cares for.
    I like the idea of a day set aside for doing something for others.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • Actually, David, when you’re with little Reuben, I have a feeling you are multi-tasking. Grandchildren can do that to us, keep us busy and happy but also looking out for them as we try to do things like fixing snacks., etc.
      We’re very fortunate with Mom’s caregivers, but Tammy connects with her like a true friend and calmly does all that has to be done as well as special things that show extra care.
      Massive hugs to you, too!

  15. I am not a fan of multi-tasking but sometimes it is necessary. I have to keep copious notes and lists otherwise I would not even single task let alone multi task. National Cupcake Day? Really? I’ve known a few in my time. And they all multi-tasked.

    • The Cupcakes multi-tasked? 🙂
      I, too, keep copious notes, but the writing them down has to keep me on track because I often end up losing the notes or tucking them in other papers and throwing them away. You’re learning first hand, Andrew, all the multi-tasking AND single-tasking that goes into selling one home, packing, moving, and reordering services that can complicate your life.

  16. Hi Marylin!

    I am always looking forward to the special days you introduce in your posts.

    As far as I know multitasking is more the ability to switch very fast between different tasks (in the brain that is) than really doing them at the exact same time. And it comes at a cost in performance. Maybe that’s why ‘multitasking’ can be quite exhausting.

    I also think that not only making a cup cake single tasking is more enjoyable; but also eating it with full enjoyment of the moment 😉

    • Multitasking reminds me of the old “I Love Lucy” program, Ilka, and the episode when Lucy and her friend Ethel got jobs working on an assembly line in a candy factory. They couldn’t do all the required jobs at one time, and soon they were catching up by stuffing their mouths with handfuls of chocolates to make it look like they were on schedule.
      For me, I’d rather single-task baking cupcakes! 🙂

  17. I like how you clarified the difference and value of single tasking, Marylin!

  18. Now if I can just do it, Robin. Some days–even though I know it’s going to get the better of me–I still try to combine numerous things at once. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it end up that nothing gets completely finished, and I’m exhausted.

  19. I’m at that stage where I start to single-task, go to get something, get distracted by something else, start a new task, go to get something else, get distracted again and start a third task, go to get something and discover the unfinished first task and continue where I left off. Thank goodness for whistling kettles.

  20. Learning to slow down and single task is hard after a life of multitasking. But let´s face it, if women didn´t multitask, nothing would get done. In moderation, it is not a bad thing.

    • Absolutely, Darlene. Somebody has to do it, and women are the ones who somehow step up and get things done. We’re like jugglers with many balls in the air, and we manage to focus on the ball that needs to be caught at that moment, and still keep the others in the air. 😉

  21. Molly

    Mom, I really think that multi-tasking is synonymous with mommyhood! Although it may not be true multi-tasking because one thing gets more attention than something else…but it is still doing more than one thing at a time.

    As much as grandma “multi-tasked” you were definitely 100x more of a multi-tasker. As a mom, wife and now a mor-mor you are the queen of multitasking.

    Thanks for making sure the blog gets written, the writers group is held, the nightly phone calls are made, the neighbors are taken care of, daddy is cared for and you still have time to walk/shower/write/and enjoy yourself!

    Love ya!

  22. Marylin, so much great info here. Love Penny, the dog. Tammy, the wise caregiver. Didn’t know cupcake day was coming up in Canada. Shame on me. LOL And my mom believes multi-tasking isn’t that great either. And wow, your mom is 96 years-old. God has granted her long life. What a blessing. 🙂

    • Thanks, Tracy. She has been blessed with a long life, and we all love her so much that we keep alive the memories of her wonderful life to share with her great-grandchildren since the dementia has dulled them for her.
      And in support of Canada’s cupcake, we’ll be good neighbors and celebrate with cupcakes, too! 😉

  23. Your mom is a very wise person, Marylin. I also like that hand painted sign:) I’ve found that when I get into the multi-tasking mode too much, I feel scattered and overwhelmed. When I stop and do one thing at a time, I feel accomplished. I love it that we have a day set aside for single-tasking! Have a great week:)

  24. I’m glad Tammy is there to provide the tender, loving care that your Mom needs. Penny is another adorable addition to any caring setting.

    I have to agree with your Mom. My motto, for years, has been that when I multitask I can mess up several things at the same time. 😉 The jack-of-all trades and juggling, but master of none.

    Marilyn … thanks for the holiday reminders. Inconvenience Yourself Day and National Cupcake Day sound delightful. I may borrow that cupcake day idea from our neighbors to the north … as well as the plan to brighten someone else’s day on the 24th. 😉

  25. And it will really brighten someone else’s day if we sit down for a visit and share the cupcakes with them! We have several older friends who love sweets, but it makes it a full party to have someone sit with them for just a few minutes, too.
    You and I are on the same page, Judy, turning multitasking into an opportunity to mess up several things at the same time. And when I was teaching full time all those years, I actually seemed to do a good job of multitasking!

  26. Jim

    Well, I am pleased to read Single-Tasking finally gets some respect. I do that best. I have always tried to avoid multitasking as much as possible. My mom wanted me to be an airline pilot. “Not me,” I would tell her. “Sooner or later I would forget to put down the landing gear on approach!” 🙂

    • 🙂 Oh, I don’t know, honey. You are careful and organized with tasks that have multi-levels of concentration, but it makes me laugh that Oma wanted you to be a pilot. You know that if you got in a bind, she would have left her seat and come up to the cockpit to help you 😉

  27. HI Marylin, I love this post about multi and single tasking and cupcakes. I notice that as I get older, I tend to multi task less. It’s just too distracting. I like to finish what I’m working on before I take on something else.
    And, I am a true cupcake lover. Really, what’s not to love? When I get to a wedding and there’s cupcakes, I’m in heaven.
    xo Joanne

    • I once read that the Earl of Sandwich, a gambler, “invented” the sandwich so he could eat his meals as he continued to play cards.
      I wonder if the same kind of thing helped with cupcakes; did someone who loved eating cake create cupcakes to make it more convenient to eat while doing other things? Whatever the answer, Joanne, I’m with you ~ what’s not to love?

  28. I had laugh when reading your post Marylin! I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve made a mess of things trying to multi-task – something I think I’m fairly good at! Perhaps I should stick to making every day a single task day…and just make cupcakes and creating smiles on my kiddos faces! Have a fabulous week!

    • But making cupcakes AND creating smiles on your kids’ faces is a perfect example of the best kinds of multi-tasking, Robyn! 🙂
      And your photography–especially the pictures of children or pets–proves how multi-talented you are at combining both camera and personality to achieve such wonderful results.

  29. Glad to hear single-tasking being celebrated, Marylin. People talk about multi-tasking with that same misplaced pride that I used to talk about how I functioned on so little sleep – before all the info was in about how damaging sleep-loss is to the body (obesity, difficulty healing, judgment impairment to name a few “little” issues). I also appreciate the opportunity to support our southern neighbors (although, when I lived in Detroit it was the ONE place in the country that we could call them our SOUTHERN neighbors!) by raising a cupcake or two – Salute!

    • Do you remember the years of self-help articles and interviews touting the importance of getting busy and reaching full potential by multi-tasking, Shel? It was THE thing, and proof that we could do it all and have it all. What we often got was mistakes and do-overs and stress. But when I think back during 3 decades of teacher high school students, yes, I lived each day doing multi-MULTI-tasking, and I learned to juggle things. What I think I also learned was somehow to keep all the lesser balls in the air and focus on the one that most needed attention to keep from crashing.
      Just thinking about it makes me crave another cupcake… 😉

  30. National Pancake Week! Well, that ties in with our Pancake Day beautifully Marylin! I love how you bring a new slant to the way we think about our daily lives, how you challenge us to ‘think outside the box’. Multi-tasking is hailed as a great skill it seems, but your dear mom was right: it is in the slowing down and paying attention that true skill lies. Just like with with your sweet grandson focusing on sewing his seeds. Slowing down is something we have forgotten and need to be reminded of so thank you for this. And I love that your mom has such a thoughtful care-giver and that she gets to eat her favourite food…and you get to enjoy cupcakes 🙂

  31. It IS the best of everything, isn’t it, Sherri?
    I am so grateful for Tammy and all of Mom’s careful and caring helpers, and also my grandchildren on the other end of the age spectrum and how they can do so many things, but also pause, focus and do things very carefully, with attention to detail. It makes me appreciate it all, and serves as reminders of how I want to work.
    And then there are also the cupcakes. Oh, yeah. 😉

  32. Jane Thorne

    Marylin, the image of Gannon bending to sow his seeds, in his little sandals, with such concentration in every fibre of his being….I love this picture. Xx Do you remember in the eighties those time management courses? I was sent on loads by my employers at the time and I will never forget a pivotal moment. We were being instructed to time our showers, so that precious minutes could be added to our productivity each day. I rebelled. When I returned to the office I asked my manager how much the course had cost and he replied with an eye watering amount. I looked at him and said ‘Well, I apologise because you have just spent that money to discover that I am a square peg in a round hole’…and I resigned! I agree with your lovely Mum, time is precious and concentrating on the task at hand, is like a natural meditation and can raise the simplest task to a higher level. It is also peaceful….so peaceful….much love flowing to you all and your lovely Mum. ❤ xXx

  33. Jane Thorne

    I also ❤ cake, especially cupcakes xxx

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