One Gas Burner at a Time

By: Dr Billi Bittan 3 years ago

“In today’s society, doing just one thing at a time seems downright luxurious, even wasteful. But chances are, you’re not doing yourself (or your boss or your friends and family) any favors by multitasking your way through the day.” – Amanda MacMillan

To people living with ADHD, doing ‘just one thing at a time’ may not seem like a luxury or wasteful, it may simply seem like an impossibility. Focusing and working on many tasks at once may seem like it’s the way it should/must be– a characteristic that’s intrinsic to your being. But it’s not.

I often use the phrase One Gas Burner at a Time” to help my clients become aware, better understand, and change multitasking habits/behavior.

Have you ever tried to cook an entire 3-course meal all at once? The garlic and tomatoes are roasting for your appetizer, the spinach is sautéing awaiting the rest of the ingredients for your almost-famous Alfredo sauce, the chicken grilling, the pasta boiling, and the pie is in the oven. Your timers are set and the rest of your ingredients are strewn between the counter and your fridge. You’re feeling super-human and ready to conquer the world!

But when you try to cook several dishes at once, you constantly adjust the temperature on one burner, stir the pot on another, add ingredients to another, or take the lid off a pan on yet another. Being distracted like this slows you down. Because you’re focused on stirring the cream into the spinach, you don’t notice the chicken is burning until you smell it. By this time all you can do is flip it over and hope you can convince your friends that the recipe called for charred chicken. And now, because you were focused on your chicken, you’ve got another pot boiling over or burning.

Our ADHD brains are like a busy kitchen. All the gas burners are on but it doesn’t mean we must put a pan on each one. If you free your mind, you’ll find your ‘Flow’. You will be able to tap into your amazing HyperFocus attributes and put your effort and energy into preparing just one dish good. In doing this, you can take your time and enjoy the process. You’ll likely find that you’re not as stressed and it takes much less time to complete the entire meal because your focus is no longer split and you’re not making careless mistakes. Best of all, you’ll get fabulous results. The One Gas Burner at a Time” approach can apply to many areas of your life.

So, the next time you have multiple tasks to do, remember this metaphor and use your great trade of ADHD – HyperFocus to do one thing until it will it’s completely done.

MacMillian, A. 12 Reasons to Stop Multitasking Now!

*The ‘Flow’ is a term coined by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. “In flow experiences seamlessly unfold moment to moment and encompass many of the characteristics noted in a state of HyperFocus.”

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